MANILA, Philippines – Friday at the crowded Bren Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga, the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season Presented by Xtreme saw Pampanga withstand Bataan’s final push to win 66-62 and advance to the semifinal round.
The enormous Lanterns defeated the Risers, 2 to 1, in their best-of-three North division quarterfinal series, and Dominick Vera’s two free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining sealed the victory.
Pampanga increased their lead to 64 to 56, but Bataan showed no signs of giving up by having Arvie Bringas drill in a corner triple, Kristoffer Torrado drive in, and Ric Gallardo split his charities with only 14.8 seconds left to make it 64 to 62.
The unbeaten Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards will be their opponent in the semifinals on Monday at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City, unlike Game 2, where the Giant Lanterns lost their composure and lost 83 to 85.
Pampanga was led by Archie Concepcion and Christopher Lagrama, who each scored 13 points, and Vera and Earnest Reyes, who each scored 10. Reyes added 10 rebounds to his total.
James Castro and Kristoffer Torrado both scored 14 points for Bataan.
The score was tied at 30 after Bataan had come back from an 11-point disadvantage, but Pampanga won the half, 34 to 30, thanks to back-to-back baskets, the final of which came from Concepcion.
Following Ron Lastimosa’s third triple, Bataan once more knotted the score at 42. However, Pampanga scored eight straight points to retake the lead before Arvie Bringas split his two charity baskets to make the score 50 to 43.
General Santos City vs. Bacolod and Batangas vs. Bacoor will play in the South division doubleheader on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., respectively, at the Batangas City Coliseum, to wrap up the MPBL’s quarterfinal round.
Against early qualifiers Zamboanga and Rizal, respectively, the victors of the decisive Game 3 will proceed to the semifinals.
Unbeaten Nueva Ecija in the North division and Pasig and San Juan, who will square off in the South division, are also set to compete in the best-of-three division semifinals.