By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
BINAN CITY — Pampanga Giant Lanterns did not waver to the new faces of Soccsksargen Marlins and handed the embattled squad a 115-71 beating in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Season at the Alonte Sports Arena here on Tuesday night.
Despite a suspension handed to them by league owner Manny Pacquiao and commissioner Kenneth Duremdes the night before, the Marlins still got a clearance to play against the Giant Lanterns.
According to someone privy to the situation, only those involved in the game-fixing allegation were given the suspension, while Pacquiao, who took over as caretaker manager, decided to keep Soccsksargen’s homegrown players to be reinforced by recruits.
However, Pampanga still made quick work of Soccsksargen after holding the team to just 39 points in the first 30 minutes and taking a lead as high as 51 in the third period before settling for the 44-point winning margin.
Wilson Baltazar made 15 points, two rebounds, one assist, and one steal for Pampanga, which now took solo fourth place in the North Division at 13-7.
Levi Hernandez added 14 points and three rebounds, while Mark Cruz chipped in 13 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, and three steals.
Recruit Jorem Morada put up 20 markers, three boards, and four dimes for Soccsksargen, which remained winless after 19 games.
In the second game, Makati banked on late free throws to pip Imus, 69-64.
After letting the Bandera crawl back slowly after they contained them in the first half, the Skyscrapers finished the job by holding their opponent to just two points in the final 2:03 of the game while Jong Baloria and Ced Ablaza made their last eight points all from the charity stripe to seal the win.
“We’re out of rhythm, so the way we played was lethargic. Good thing na our defense held them down to win the game,” said coach Cholo Villanueva told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) after the game. The Makati squad is now in second place in the North at 16-3.
Baloria tallied 22 points, five rebounds, and one steal, Ablaza added 20 points, two rebounds, one steal, and one block for Makati.
Jojo Cunanan paced Imus, which fell to 5-14, with 19 markers, three boards, three dimes, and one swipe. (PNA)