MANILA -- The Manila Stars put an end to Bacoor City Strikers' eight-game winning streak in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season with a 78-74 road win at the STRIKE Gym in Bacoor on Monday night.
Manila pulled away in the third quarter, opening a 19-point lead, 61-42, with six minutes left in the period.
Bacoor City rallied and trimmed the lead down to three, 65-62, with 7:45 to play in the fourth quarter, but Manila restored order and held on.
"Naging composed lang kami noong fourth quarter. Naging complacent kasi kami eh. Nilakad namin 'yung dapat itinatakbo namin. Doon kami nagkamali (We were composed during the fourth quarter. We became complacent. We just walked when we were supposed to run. That was where we made a mistake)," said coach Tino Pinat after the win.
Aris Dionisio led Manila with 22 points, six rebounds, and two blocks, while Carlo Lastimosa added 17 points, five rebounds, and three assists for the Stars, who moved up to 24-5, a half-game behind the San Juan Knights for first place in the Northern Division.
RJ Ramirez put up 15 markers, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal for the Strikers, who decided to sit out Gab Banal, who just arrived from Dubai earlier in the day.
The result opened an opportunity for Davao Occidental Tigers to take the top seed in the Southern Division outright.
The Tigers prevailed over the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, 86-79, earlier Monday.
Davao Occidental slowly pulled away and opened a 12-point lead, 73-61, with 4:49 left in the game before keeping Nueva Ecija at bay in the end.
Mark Yee and Bonbon Custodio each made 16 points for the Tigers, who moved up to 24-4 and are now 1.5 games ahead of the Strikers for the top spot in the South following the latter's crucial home loss.
Davao Occidental can clinch the top seed if it beats Biñan City on Wednesday night at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan or if Bacoor City loses to Iloilo in the game preceding it.
Zags Gonzaga fired 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting with three rebounds, two assists, and one steal, while Maclean Sabellina added 14 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, one block, and one steal for the Rice Vanguards, who ended their season at 10-20.
In the first game, Cebu kept its playoff hopes alive with a 75-65 shocker over Bataan.
The Sharks' defense kept the Risers at bay for most of the contest as their chance of getting one of the last two playoff seats in the South got a huge boost.
"Maganda ang depensa namin. Nagawa nila yung gusto ko, lalo na 'yung press (Our defense was great. They did what I told them, especially the press)," said coach Noy Falcasantos about Cebu's defense.
Harold Cortes made 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals for the Sharks, who moved up to 14-14, a full game behind the Bicol Volcanoes for eighth place in the Southern Division.
Will McAloney added 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, one block, and two steals.
Gino Jumao-as made 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Risers, who fell to a tie with the Bulacan Kuyas for fifth place in the Northern Division at 19-10. (PNA)