By Jerome Lagunzad
(Imus Sports Complex)
7 p.m. — Navotas vs Quezon City
9 p.m. — Batangas vs Imus
Host Valenzuela and Parañaque pulled off contrasting victories last Thursday night to keep the pacesetters within striking distance in the 2018 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Rajah Cup at the packed Valenzuela Astrodome.
The Classic, egged on by their throng of supporters, jumped the gun on the flat-footed Bataan Defenders and did enough in the second half to score a 97-80 victory – their second straight – and improve their mark to 2-1 overall.
Not to be outdone were the Patriots, who showed steely nerves down the stretch to foil pre-season champion Bulacan Kuyas, 74-72, to get their title campaign back on track.
Forward Jemal Vizcarra and guard Ryusei Koga teamed up for 28 points but it was former Perpetual Help stalwart Jhong Baloria who saved the day for Parañaque with a free throw and a clutch lay-up for a 73-70 lead with 45 seconds to play.
Bulacan, however, refused to give up as wingman Jovit dela Cruz countered back with his own bucket to slice their deficit down to one with 25 ticks remaining. But Parañaque hang on, thanks to Jonathan Belorio’s split in the closing seconds.
Meanwhile, the main header proved to be a humdinger as the Classic went on a big tear early on and raced to a 52-22 lead at the break, capped by Rocky Acidre’s buzzer-beating triple.
The Defenders showed some signs of life in the third period when they pulled within 16 at 41-57 off former pro star Gary David’s jumper. However, guard Paolo Hubalde set up Acidre for a pair of booming triples, swinging the momentum back to the Classic.
Hubalde came through with a double-double of 10 points and 14 assists on top of four steals while Acidre and Adrian Celada combined for 27 points for Valenzuela.