The Pampanga Giant Lanterns leaned heavily on Archie Concepcion and Encho Serrano to repulse the Marikina Shoemasters, 82-70, on Friday and move within a win of advancing to the semifinal round of the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Concepcion fired eight points and Serrano added six against a lone basket by RV Berjay as Pampanga pulled away from a tight 58-57 count in the fourth quarter of their best-of-three North division quarterfinal series opener.
With main man Justin Baltazar hounded by pesky Marikina defenders, Concepcion, Serrano and MJ Garcia took over the scoring load for the favored Giant Lanterns, who also beat the Shoemasters in the eliminations (84-75) where they wound up with the best record (26-2) in the 29-team field.
Concepcion tallied 26 points, five assists, four rebounds and one steal to earn best player honors, followed by Garcia with 13 points, seven rebounds, four assists, plus two steals, and Serrano with 12 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, three rebounds, three assists and one steal.
The 6-foot-9 Baltazar was again dominant underneath with 21 rebounds but missed his usual double-double with just nine points. He, however, issued seven assists for Pampanga Governor Dennis Pineda, who also acts as the Giant Lanterns head coach.
Pampanga fielded local icon Arwind Santos for the first time and the two-time collegiate Most Valuable Player and Philippine Basketball Association great responded with four points, six rebounds and one block.
Earlier, Gabby Espinas delivered the dagger jumper with less than a second left as Caloocan nipped Pasig City MCW Sports, 71-69.
Reprising his role as the NCAA’s first Rookie MVP in 2004, Espinas also knotted the count at 71 with another jumper, prompting Caloocan coach Robert Sison to devise the final play for him in the last three seconds.