By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA — Cebu made the race for the last playoff spot in the Southern Division of the MPBL Lakan Season more intense after edging Nueva Ecija, 77-73, at the STRIKE Gym in Bacoor on Monday night.
The Sharks held off the Rice Vanguards’ last push especially when Jai Reyes was called for a crucial foul to secure their 12th win of the season against 13 losses.
Cebu was clinging to a 75-69 lead with 1:20 remaining, but Zags Gonzaga and Justin Arana scored on back-to-back baskets to trim the lead down to two, 75-73, with 33.4 seconds left.
Reyes, however, clipped Harold Cortes with 11.2 seconds to go, and the latter made two free throws to seal the win.
Coach Noynoy Falcasantos then brought in his team’s defensive unit to close out the game.
“Ipinasok ko yung defensive players ko tapos we switched everything kaya di sila naka-attempt (I used my defensive players then we switched everything that denied them to attempt),” Falcasantos said.
Rhaffy Octobre put up 22 points on 9-of-15, shooting, two rebounds, and one assist for the Sharks, who are now just behind the Bicol Volcanoes by a half-game for the eighth seed in the South.
John Saycon and Nichole Ubalde each added 11 markers and four boards.
Reyes made 14 points, five rebounds, five dimes, and three steals for also-ran Nueva Ecija, which fell down to 8-18. (PNA)