MPBL: Quezon, Pampanga retain Top 2 placing in standings

MPBL: Quezon, Pampanga retain Top 2 placing in standings
Pampanga's Justine Baltazar posted 12 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, plus three steals for his fourth triple-double this year.

MANILA, Philippines – Quezon Province and Pampanga posted contrasting wins on Tuesday to keep their 1-2 spots in the 6th MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Season at the Caloocan Sports Complex.

Shrugging off a long lackluster performance, the Quezon Huskers prevailed over Quezon City TODA Aksyon, 70-59; while the Pampanga Giant Lanterns leaned on Justine Baltazar and Archie Concepcion to trounce Caloocan Batang Kankaloo, 76-60, in the nightcap.

It was the Huskers' 15th straight win in as many games, matching the Giant Lanterns' 15-win streak after an initial loss in the round-robin elimination phase of the 29-team tournament.

Caught napping, the Huskers trailed 0-14 and needed to play catch-up until the last seven minutes before seizing control at 57-55 and sealing the outcome with a 13-point cluster, 70-56, with 30.9 seconds to go.

Judel Fuentes and Jason Opiso poured 10 points each in that crippling 22-1 spurt that pulled Quezon City down to 8-9.

Opiso wound up with 24 points, nine rebounds and two steals; followed by LJ Gonzales with 13 points, four rebounds, four assists plus three steals; and Fuentes with 12 points, four assists, three steals and two rebounds.

Quezon City, which led for 33 minutes and 28 seconds, got 12 points, four assists and three rebounds from Hubert Cani; 10 points, nine rebounds plus two blocks from Rhinwill Yambing; and 11 points plus five rebounds from Andrew Estrella.

While the Husters struggled for the most part, the Giant Lanterns sparkled nearly throughout.

Baltazar, the reigning Most Valuable Player, posted 12 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, plus three steals for his fourth triple-double this year; while Concepcion notched 21 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals for the defending champion.

Other Giant Lanterns who shone were Jeff Viernes with 17 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, plus three rebounds and Jhaymo Eguilos with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists.

Caloocan, which skidded to 8-5, got 13 points and four rebounds from Paul Sanga; and 10 points, five rebounds plus three assists from Jeramer Cabanag.

Streaking Manila SV Batang Sampaloc had anxious moments before subduing Muntinlupa, 93-80, in the opener.

The Manila Stars trailed the Muntinlupa Cagers, 67-71, following a triple by Joshua Ramirez, and called on Greg Slaughter and Enzo Navarro to regain control behind a 13-3 run with 2:55.

Muntinlupa threatened at 78-81 with a triple from Joshua Miguel Marcos, but Navarro sealed Manila's eighth straight win and 13-4 record with a scoop shot, 83-78, only 16.1 seconds left.

Slaughter finished with 22 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, 10 rebounds and three assists to clinch Best Player honors despite admitting he's not in optimal form yet.

Tonino Gonzaga also delivered for Manila with points plus three rebounds, and so did Rabeh Al-Hussaini with 13 points. Navarro proved to be the steadying factor with 10 assists to go with seven points and seven rebounds.

Muntinlupa, which suffered its third straight narrow defeat for a 5-12 slate, got 16 points each from Joshua Miguel Marcos and Warlo James Batac, and 14 from Joshua Flores.

The MPBL visits the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay on Thursday, June 11, with games pitting Marikina against Bicolandia at 4 p.m., Bacolod against South Cotabato at 6 p.m., and Pangasinan against Pasay at 8 p.m.

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