By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA — GenSan Warriors clinched the last seat in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) playoffs after romping Sarangani Marlins, 104-87, at the San Andres Sports Complex on Monday night.
Finding themselves in deep trouble of getting knocked out due to a four-game slump, the Warriors finally secured a place in the postseason after dominating the Marlins almost all game long, even having a lead as high as 24 early in the fourth quarter.
“We all continue to learn from all those mistakes,” GenSan coach Rich Alvarez said.
Pamboy Raymundo fired 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting including 4-of-5 from long range, two rebounds, seven assists, and one steal for the Warriors, who locked in the seventh seed in the Southern Division Playoffs.
But a tough road awaits them as they will take on second-seeded Bacoor City Strikers in the first round.
“We have to be mentally prepared,” Alvarez said.
Pari Llagas and Orin Catacutan each scored 17 markers for the Marlins, who ended their season at a measly 1-29 record.
Meanwhile, Manila shut the door on Zamboanga’s bid to sneak into the Top 4 with a 74-71 home win.
Aris Dionisio’s alley-oop finish secured it for Manila, while Cris Bitoon, who dished the alley-oop pass, added two free throws for the final tally.
Anton Asistio had a chance to force overtime for Zamboanga, but his triple went wide as time expired.
With his team already assured of the second seed in the Northern Division playoffs, Manila coach Tino Pinat approached this game as if it is already the postseason, ahead of their showdown with seventh-seeded Pasig in the first round.
“Tinreat namin itong playoff game na eh (We treated this as a playoff game),” Pinat said.
Bitoon and Jollo Go each scored 14 markers for Manila, which ended the regular season at 25-5.
Mark Dyke added 13 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
Alvin Pasaol and Santi Santillan had 14 points each for Zamboanga, which fell to a tie with Iloilo for the fifth spot in the South standings at 18-12.
The result catapulted Batangas City to the fourth seed, which means home-court edge, in the South playoffs.
Zamboanga must now hope that GenSan beats Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards in the final day of the regular season on Wednesday night at the Caloocan Sports Complex, for the team to capture the fifth seed in the South playoffs.
If the Warriors lose to the Rice Vanguards, the Iloilo United Royals will claim the fifth seed.
In the other game, Davao Occidental averted Marikina Shoemasters’ brave fight with an 85-83 win.
While it was a no-bearing game with both teams already knowing their respective playoff fates, the Tigers still had to crawl back from a late five-point deficit by the Shoemasters as Eman Calo buried a desperation three with eight seconds left that made the difference in the game.
“That was a prayer shot that got answered,” said Davao Occidental head coach Don Dulay on that Calo game-winner.
Yves Sazon tried to steal the victory, but he misfired on his last gasp as time expired.
Joseph Terso put up 13 points and two rebounds for the Tigers, who ended their season at 26-4, tied for the best record with the San Juan Knights.
San Juan, however, holds the tiebreaker over Davao Occidental due to its 84-65 win in Iloilo City on Jan. 18, which means San Juan will have a home-court advantage for the entire playoffs.
Von Tambeling exploded for 32 points on 12-for-19 shooting including 8-for-12 from long range with four rebounds, four assists, and two steals for the Shoemasters, which slipped further to 7-22.
Sazon added 23 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, and two steals, while Ato Ular chipped in 18 markers, 12 rebounds, and four dimes. (PNA)