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Bacoor, Batangas prevail

Jhan McHale Nermal sparkles in the Bacoor Strikers’ 61-56 win over Zamboanga in their MPBL semis match Saturday. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MPBL

Bacoor and Batangas toppled their respective rivals on Saturday and boosted their drive toward the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Fifth Season South Division finals at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor, Cavite.

The Bacoor Strikers tightened up on defense and slowed down the pace to repulse Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, 61-56, in the nightcap and keep in step with the Batangas City Embassy Chill Athletics, who thwarted the GenSan Warriors, 81-75, in the opener of the twin best-of-three semifinal series.

Jhan McHale Nermal struck the hardest for the Strikers with 20 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks to clinch best player honors over teammate James Kwekuteye with 11 points, eight rebounds, two steals and one block.

Jhaymo Equilos, Bacoor’s best player in its two-game sweep of Iloilo in the quarterfinals, settled for six points but snagged 10 rebounds in addition to two steals, two assists and one block.

With Nermal and Kwekuteye contributing seven points each, the Strikers surged ahead, 46-35, then quelled Zamboanga’s repeated rallies to move within a win of their first finals appearance in the 29-team league.

Held scoreless in the first three quarters, Joseph Gabayni poured all of his 10 points in the final canto, but his efforts fell short as Zamboanga missed all of its 12 field goal attempts in the last three minutes.

Zamboanga, the reigning South Division champion, got 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals from Jaycee Marcelino, who, however, was forced into six turnovers.

Bacoor team manager Dennis Abella lauded the coaching staff, headed by Alex Angeles, and the players for bringing the Strikers closer to the division finals and thanked Mayor Strike Revilla and his wife Chaye Cabal-Revilla for their all-out support.

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