Laguna escapes Mandaluyong in MPBL
BINAN, Laguna — The Laguna Heroes struggled past depleted Mandaluyong El Tigre, 76-72, Wednesday night in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at the Alonte Sports Arena here.
Raymond Ilagan drilled in a jumper with 19 seconds to go for a 75-72 count, then capped the scoring for the Krah Pipes-backed Heroes with one free throw out of two attempts in the last 2.7 seconds.
Despite missing five key players (Ray Parks, Prince Rivero, John Alabanza and brothers Thomas and Axel Torres) and head coach Mac Cuan, El Tigre held their own against the Heroes, who posted their seventh win against six losses , even leading by 10 points, 34-24, in the second quarter.
Ilagan finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Michael Mabulac chalked 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Heroes, now under new coach Nathaniel Gregorio, who also got 13 points from Elvin Chan and 12 from Denok Miranda.
El Tigre suffered their fifth straight defeat and skidded to 6-6.
With Parks, Rivero, Alabanza and Mark Torres bound to play for Alab Pilipinas, El Tigre, one of the early favorites in the 26-team league, have been defanged.
Earlier, the Pampanga Lanterns rallied from five points down in the last 20 seconds to nip the Navotas Clutch, 89-88, in the opener.
Levi Hernandez drilled in a triple off an inbound pass, Juneric Baloria canned two free throws to knot the count at 88, before Hernandez capped his heroics against his former team with a steal off Ron Dennison that eventually paved the way for two free throws, which he split for the marginal point.
Pampanga’s Jimbo Aquino later missed two free throws, but Navotas failed to turn the game around as Jai Reyes also missed two free throws in the last two seconds while Michole Sorela bungled a buzzer beater inside the paint.
Michael Juico topscored for the Lanterns, who improved to 5-9, with 25 points, followed by Hernandez with 22 and Juneric Baloria 16 plus 12 rebounds.
The Clutch, who slid to 5-7, got 19 points from Gino Jumao-as, 18 from Dennison, and 17 each from Kris Porter and Reyes.