JECKSTER Apinan drove in with 4.6 seconds left for the marginal lay-up that lifted Batangas past San Juan 70-69 last Tuesday in the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season presented by Xtreme at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Sarangani Marlins trounced the Makati City MNL Kingpins, 70-69, in the opener, while Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines followed suit with a 78-59 thumping of the Bataan Risers.
Atoning for five missed free throws earlier, Apinan got the inbound and broke away from his defender to hand the Batangas City Embassy Chill its 12th win against a loss in the single round-robin elimination phase of the 22-team tournament.
San Juan’s Judel Fuertes fired a desperation 3-point heave that went airball and pulled down the Knights’ record to 7-6.
Cedric Ablaza fouled out in the dying minutes, but left his imprint behind Batangas’ narrow escape with game-highs 24 points and 16 rebounds that earned the 6-foot-3 banger best player honors.
Juneric Baloria supported Ablaza with 13 points, while Apinan wound up with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.
It was a stingy loss for the Knights as they wrested the lead at 69-68 on two free throws by Patrick Aquino with 6.4 seconds to go, prompting Batangas Coach Cholo Villanueva to call a timeout and chart Batangas’ final play.
Fuentes posted 19 points while new acquisition Dexter Maiquez tallied 11 points and 8 rebounds for San Juan.
Earlier games saw Sarangani and Zamboanga prevail over their opponents.
New acquisition Mark Acosta shone in the Marlins’ fifth straight win with 14 points and 6 rebounds and so did Donald Gumaru with 13 points.
Crack guards Kyt Jimenez and Yvan Ludovice, barely recovered from injuries, also contributed for Sarangani with 10 and 6 points, respectively.
Makati, which got 15 points from Marco Sario and 13 from Larry Arpia, absorbed its 12th straight loss and plunged to the bottom at 1-13.
Zamboanga pulled away, 56-33, before going on cruise control and climbing to 9-3 behind Reden Celda, Adrian Santos, Chris Dumapig and Jayvee Marcelino.
Celda chalked 19 points, Santos and Marcelino 11 each and Dumapig 10 plus 11 rebounds as Zamboanga led throughout to halt a 3-game slide.
Bataan tumbled to 7-4 despite the 20-point output of James Darwin Castro and the 17-point effort of Arvie Bringas.
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