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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Pampanga foils San Juan,nears North Division crown

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Pampanga got monster figures from Justine Baltazar and an all-around effort from JB Bahio to subdue San Juan, 86-82, on Saturday in Game 1 of their MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season North Division Finals at the people-packed Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center.

The 6’8” Baltazar, the MVP race pacesetter, poured 23 points on top of 20 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 1 block, while the 6’5” Bahio posted 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 1 steal as the Giant Lanterns stretched their win streak to 14 at home and moved within a win of clinching their first division crown in the country’s top regional league.

The Giant Lanterns, being coached by Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda, will try to cut short their best-of-three series with the Knights at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

Other Giant Lanterns who shone were Archie Concepcion with 11 points, Encho Serrano with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, and veteran Arwin Santos with with 8 points, including two clutch triples.

San Juan got 20 points from Marwin Taywan, 14 points from Orlan Wamar, 12 points plus 12 rebounds from Michael Calisaan, 11 points plus 11 rebounds from Adrian Nocum and 8 points plus 9 rebounds from Zachary Huang.

Back-to-back triples by Concepcion and Santos pushed Pampanga ahead, 74-64, but the Knights rallied and threatened at 82-85, following two free throws each from Taywan and Wamar, with 45 seconds to go.

The Knights couldn’t score from there, however, and MJ Garcia sealed the outcome by sinking the back end of his charities with 5.5 ticks left.

Although San Juan buried the first basket, Pampanga responded with a 13-point cluster for what turned out to be the game’s biggest spread.

With Baltazar firing 13 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, Pampanga posted a 43-37 halftime lead.

As Baltazar rested Bahio took charge in the third quarter and Pampanga stayed ahead, 61-58.

Exploiting their taller ceiling, the Giant Lanterns ruled the boards, 54-42, especially on the offensive end (23-14).

“We know they (Knights) have the edge with their guards, so we took advantage of our height,” said Pineda, who expects another tough fight in Game 2.

The MPBL South Division Finals between Bacoor and Batangas begin at 7 p.m. on Monday at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor City.


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