Pampanga and Caloocan shoot for semifinal slots when they tackle separate rivals in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Fifth Season playoffs on Friday at the Caloocan Sports Complex.
The Pampanga Giant Lanterns will try to assert their superiority over the Marikina Shoemasters at 6 p.m., while the Caloocan Batang Kankaloo seek a repeat over Pasig MCW Sports at 8 p.m.
With Archie Concepcion firing 26 points and Justine Baltazar grabbing 21 rebounds, Pampanga subdued Marikina, 82-70, on 6 October in the opener of their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the North division of the 29-team tournament.
Caloocan, on the other hand, escaped with a 71-69 victory after Pasig made only one of seven free throw attempts in the last 1:48.
According to Pampanga Gov. Dennis Pineda, also the coach of the Giant Lanterns, he would want to cut short the series in order to give his wards some rest for the tougher grind ahead.
To do that, Pineda will again call on Concepcion, who added five rebounds and four assists for best player honors; Most Valuable Player race pacesetter Baltazar, who also chalked nine points, seven assists and one steal; Encho Serrano and MJ Garcia.
Serrano poured 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1 while Garcia contributed 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists for the overall frontrunner of the round-robin elimination phase.
Veteran Arwind Santos is expected to assume the leadership role in only his second game for the Giant Lanterns, who have a slight edge over Pasig.
After all, it took a jumper from Gabby Espinas with 1.1 seconds left for Caloocan to prevail in the tight fight which saw eight lead changes, nine deadlocks, and neither team pulling ahead by double digits.