Batangas and Sarangani kept top spot in the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season with hard-earned victories on Saturday night at the Batangas City Coliseum.
The Batangas City Embassy Chill Athletics subdued the GenSan Warriors, 68-62, while the Sarangani Marlins nipped the Marikina Shoe Masters, 73-69, to post their third straight win in as many starts.
Bucking the absence of two key players, the Athletics dropped a 10-point bomb in the homestretch to hand the Warriors, who have homegrown actor Gerald Anderson in their roster, a second straight defeat in the 22-team tournament.
Leaning on YouTube sensation Kyt Jimenez, Paul Sanga, Regie Boy Basibas and Gabby Espinas, the Marlins proved steady under pressure to pull down the Shoe Masters to a 1-2 card.
Jimenez fired 11 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, handed 7 assists and pulled off 3 steals to become the Marlins’ most efficient performer. Sanga scored 14 points, Basibas added 13 and Espinas 11 for Coach John Kallos.
Marikina drew 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists from Raymond Casajeros; 13 points from Alfred Gayosa, and 11 points plus 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals from Tiktoker Ahron Estacio.
Batangas finally broke free at 66-56 as Ralph Olivares struck right away after being fielded back by Coach Cholo Villanueva.
Olivares’ 10 points was enough to pace Batangas, which bucked the absence of injured gunner Juneric Baloria and inside operator Jeckster Apinan, to stay on course of another title run since the Athletics ruled the MPBL inaugural Rajah Cup in 2018.
Levi Hernandez and Mark Dela Virgen contributed 9 points each, Cedrick Ablaza 8, and Vincent Imprtanta and Jaycee Asuncion 7 each for Batangas.
GenSan led at 48-42, on a lay-up by Anderson, but Hernandez presided over a 9-point blitz to push Batangas ahead at 51-49 after three quarters.
Trailing Batangas and Sarangani with 2-0 records are Bacolod and Zamboanga, followed by Bataan, Nueva Ecija and Pampanga with 1-0 slates.
The MPBL goes to the FilOIl Flying V Center today (Monday) with another doubleheader pitting Mindoro (0-3) against Pasig (0-1) at 7 p.m. and San Juan (0-1) against Valenzuela (3-1) at 9 p.m.