Batangas barged into the semifinal round while Muntinlupa got back on course in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Fifth Season Playoffs on Tuesday at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor, Cavite.
The Embassy Chill Athletics dropped three straight triples in the homestretch to repeat over Imus SV Squad, 61-59, and sweep their best-of-three quarterfinal series in the South division.
The Muntinlupa Cagers, on the other hand, wasted a 27-point third quarter spread but held on to turn back the GenSan Warriors, 99-91, and force a Game 3 decider in their own quarterfinal series.
A 10-point cluster, the last five by Marco Balagtas, enabled Muntinlupa to break away, 86-59.
Just when the Cagers were hoping for a smooth ride going to the last 10 minutes, however, the Warriors ended the third quarter with four straight points then greeted the fourth with a 14-point avalanche to move within 77-86.
GenSan threatened further at 91-96 following back-to-back triples by Mark Cruz with two minutes and four seconds to go, but couldn’t score after that, including three straight free throw misses by Cruz with 52 seconds left.
Ian Melencio presided over Muntinlupa’s recovery from a 70-79 defeat in Game 1 with 16 points, 14 assists, eight assists and two steals to run away with the best player honors under coach Aldrin Morante.
The Kawit-born Melencio, a legend in pocket tournaments in Cavite, was supported by Dave Moralde with 18 points plus six rebounds, JP Sarao with 13 points plus three rebounds, John Amores with 12 points and three rebounds, Reneford Ruaya with 11 points plus nine rebounds, and Val Acuna with 10.
GenSan got 19 points, five assists and 4 rebounds from Cruz, 15 points, six assists and four rebounds from Nico Elorde and 12 points from John Wilson, who got ejected for two technical fouls.