Crusaders thwart Valientes; Clutch add to Pirates’ woes
MANILA, Philippines – The Rizal Crusaders put the clamps on Zamboanga Valientes’ top gunner Reed Juntilla in the last minute to hack out a 77-73 victory Tuesday night in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at Pasig Sports Center.
Trailing 70-73 as Juntilla turned into a one-man wrecking crew, the Crusaders held the Valientes scoreless while coming through with seven in the homestretch to complete their recovery from 11 points down in the fourth quarter and tally their second victory in seven outings.
The Valientes, with Juntilla delivering their last 11 points, saw their three-game win run broken and fell to 4-3.
The Navotas Clutch vented their frustrations on the Pasig Pirates and handily won, 97-70, in the nightcap.
Their pride pricked by a three-game slide, the Clutch applied full pressure throughout to lead by as many as37 points, 80-43, and level their slate at 3-3.
Unable to match the Clutch’s firepower, the Pirates absorbed their sixth straight defeat in as many starts and stayed mired at the cellar.
Five Clutch posted double figures with Matthew Salem scoring 14, Gino Jumao-as, Levi Hernandez and Michole Sorela 13 each and Klyde Drexler Neypes chipping in 12.
Juntilla topscored anew for Zamboanga with 19, but the rest of the Valientes were unable to contribute in twin digits.
In contrast, the bench of the Xentro Mall-backed Crusaders poured a total of 51 points as against to just 24 for their counterparts from the Valientes, owned by Yacob Ati and supported by Family’s Brand Sardines.
Abugan led the Crusaders with 15 points, followed by James Abugan with 14, Banzali with 12 and Marvin Mercado with 10.
According to Rizal coach Braulio Lim, the key to the Crusaders victory was stopping the wing men of the Valientes.
“We put premium on defense in our practices and it paid off, “said Lim.
The MPBL goes to the Muntinlupa Sports Complex on Wednesday with powerhouses Muntinlupa and San Juan tangling at 9 p.m. and Valenzuela and Imus clashing at 7 p.m.
The Muntinlupa Cagers (4-0) and the San Juan Knights (5-0) are the only unbeaten squads left among the 26 teams vying in the Datu Cup while the Valenzuela Classic and Imus Bandera are at 2-2 and 2-3, respectively.