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Basilan seals 3rd seed; Bulacan falls to 6th seed

MANILA -- Basilan secured the third seed in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Southern Division Playoffs after romping Parañaque, 89-71, at the Marikina Sports Center on Friday night.

The Steel broke loose after outscoring the Patriots, 24-13, in the second quarter to open a 45-33 halftime lead.

Although Parañaque slightly recovered in the third quarter, Basilan blasted off again in the fourth with a 24-14 scoreline to formally pull away, closing it out on a 12-1 run.

"Ayaw ko kasi yung sa dulo close game pa (I don't like it that even at the end, it was still a close game)," Coach Jerson Cabiltes explained why he still wanted the Steel to finish the game strong.

Gab Dagangon made 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, five rebounds, and two assists for Basilan, which finished its regular season campaign at 20-10 while leaving Zamboanga (18-11), Batangas City (17-11), and GenSan (16-12) to scramble for the fourth seed.

Iloilo, another team chasing the Top 4 finish, which will mean home-court edge in the first round of the playoffs, already finished its regular season campaign on Thursday night with a tough 68-79 loss to Bacoor City that dropped the team to 18-12.

Michole Sorela added 12 points on 4-of-5 field goals, four rebounds, one assist, and two steals off the bench, while Jay Collado contributed 11 markers, 15 boards, three dimes, and three blocks for the Steel.

Keith Pido put up 14 points, two caroms, one assist, and one steal off the bench, while Jayboy Solis added 13 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks for Parañaque, which ended its campaign at a dismal 8-22 record.

Meanwhile, Bacolod thwarted Bulacan's chance to steal the fifth seed in the Northern Division Playoffs from Bataan with a 76-69 shocker.

Already out of playoff contention, Bacolod played as a huge spoiler to Bulacan, going on a game-deciding 9-2 run late in the fourth quarter to pull away for good.

After the win, Coach Vic Ycasiano is bullish about Bacolod's chances next season. "Maganda naman talaga ang potential ng team na 'to (The team really has potential). It was just built late tapos (then) along the way there were hurdles. But let's see next season. It was just built late, then along the way, there were hurdles," Ycasiano said.

Mar Villahermosa finished with 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, two rebounds, and three assists for Bacolod, which ended its stint at 11-19.

Jerick Cañada and Simon Camacho each added 10 points with the former also dishing out 11 assists for a double-double.

JR Alabanza made 11 markers, two boards, and one dime for Bulacan, which could have taken the fifth seed, thanks to its 81-79 head-to-head win against Bataan (20-10) but instead fell to the sixth seed at 19-11 and a showdown with third-seeded Makati in the North playoffs.

In the process, Bataan will finish fifth in the North standings and will face fourth-seeded Pampanga in the Round of 16.

In the nightcap, Marikina survived Sarangani's scare with a 99-95 home win.

In a showdown between also-ran squads, the Shoemasters botched a chance to pull away after their 33-point second quarter blast was countered with the Marlins' 31-13 third quarter as the latter looked poised to score only their second win of the season with a 73-70 lead.

However, Marikina recovered in the fourth quarter, eventually taking a 94-87 lead with 3:39 to play.

Sarangani tried to come back, cutting the lead down to one, 96-95, with 1:04 to go after an 8-2 run, but Jorem Morada incurred a dribbling violation and Ato Ular made him pay with a putback jam to up the lead back to three, 98-95, with 20 seconds to go.

Miko Estrellante tried another chance to force overtime, but he missed a potential game-tying triple, and Irvin Mendoza sealed the win with a split from the line.

Despite the escape, however, Coach Elvis Tolentino is not impressed.

"Siyempre, a win is a win. Pero ako hindi ako masaya sa panalo e, sabi ko nga mahina o malakas ang kalaban same story. So ang problema is nandoon (sa amin) (Of course, a win is a win. But I was not happy with the win, like I said even if the rival is strong or weak, the story is the same. The problem is with us)," Tolentino said.

Ular finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and two assists for the Shoemasters, who moved up to 14th place in the North at 7-21.

Von Tambeling added 16 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks off the bench.

After missing their last game, Yves Sazon returned to action and chipped in 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, and one steal.

Orin Catacutan put up 23 markers, nine boards, five dimes, and two steals, while Pari Llagas added 20 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and one steal for the Marlins, who went down to 1-28. (PNA)

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