PAMPANGA drubbed Bacoor, 71-58, to draw first blood in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) national finals over the weekend at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
Buoyed by a roaring home crowd, the Giant Lanterns uncorked a 21-4 rally and never looked back for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five titular showdown between two first-time MPBL national finalists.
Game 2 is still in Pampanga on Tuesday as the Giant Lanterns look to move on the cusp of capturing the crown of the MPBL 5th season. Kurt Reyson, from Letran Knights after their NCAA campaign, provided an immediate impact with 22 points, four rebounds and an assist in only 20 minutes of play for the Best Player of the Game honors.
Most Valuable Player race frontrunner Justine Baltazar collared 13 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block to anchor Pampanga’s defensive clinic with JB Bahio (8), Archie Concepcion (7), John Lloyd Clemente (6) and Michael John Garcia (6) chipping in help.
Pampanga, which ruled the North Division and topped all teams in the prelims with an absurd 26-2 slate, hardly needed the eruption of another ace player in Encho Serrano with five points.
The Giant Lanterns’ win in the explosive series opener was marred by a bottle-throwing incident on the court from some fans following Lester Reyes’ hard foul on Mr. Baltazar late in the third quarter.
Mr. Reyes was slapped with a disqualifying foul as Pampanga head coach and governor Dennis “Delta” Pineda calmed the crowd and reminded them of self-restraint as the game proceeded with no more untoward incident the rest of the way.
JM Nermal and Jhaymo Eguilos scored 16 points each for the South Division champions, who are out to even the series in Game 2 heading into their homecourt in Bacoor in Game 3. — John Bryan Ulanday