Resurgent Rizal foiled Bacoor’s final assault while Bataan climbed out of a deep pit to stun Caloocan in a pair of thrillers on Monday in the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season presented by Xtreme at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The Rizal Golden Coolers banked on Keanu Caballero and Jolo Mendoza in the homestretch to prevail over the Bacoor City Strikers, 81-77, and tally their third straight victory after dropping their first two games in the 22-team, 2-division tournament.
Trailing the majority of the way, the Bataan Risers silenced the Caloocan Excellence in the final 1 minute and 56 seconds and won by a whisker, 66-65, behind the efforts of Ronjay Lastimosa and Kristoffer Torrado.
Lastimosa scored 8 points, while Torrado added 2 plus a crucial steal to lift Bataan’s record to 2-1 in the single round-robin elimination round.
Caloocan, which surged ahead, 65-56, with less than 2 minutes left on back-to-back triples by Damian Lasco, followed by another triple by Ryusei Koga, skidded to 1-3.
Lastimosa and Torrado, who hails from Caloocan, posted 12 points each and got support from Ernesto Bondoc with 11.
Lasco finished with a game-high 23 points, but no other Caloocan player was able to contribute in twin digits.
Rizal took a 72-62 spread on a jumper by Mendoza with 5:14 to go, but Bacoor countered with a 9-point cluster, capped by 5 straight points from Mark Mantuano to threaten at 71-72.
Caballero, however, drilled a triple and a jumper sandwiching a lay-up by Brandrey Bienes against a triple by Mark Pangilinan to give Rizal a 79-74 cushion with 1:22 to go.
Mantuan canned a triple to tow Bacoor within 77-79, but Mendoza sealed Rizal’s win with 2 charities, time down to 11 seconds.
Jordan Rios also played a pivotal role for Rizal Coach Jonathan Banal with game-highs 18 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Mendoza with 17 points. Edgar Charcos added 11 points while Caballero ended up with 9 points, 9 assists and 4 steals.
Bacoor got 17 points from Mantuano and 15 from Pangilinan.
The MPBL goes to the Batangas City Coliseum on Tuesday with a triple-bill featuring the 9 p.m. encounter between the Batangas City Embassy Chill and the Mindoro Tamaraws.
Batangas is gunning for a 6th straight victory and the solo lead in the tournament against Mindoro (1-5).
Other games pit Bacolod (4-1) against Laguna (1-3) at 5 p.m. and Quezon City (0-2) against Makati (1-5) at 7 p.m.