MPBL: Manila sets up north division finale with San Juan

Jeckster Apinan and Cedric Ablaza of Makati try to sandwich Marvin Hayes of Manila as they prepare to go for a rebound.

BALANGA – A family feud in the MPBL northern division finals.

This was made possible after the Manila Stars edged home team Bataan Risers, 56-51, to set up a best-of-three showdown with the San Juan Knights.

Engaged in a defensive struggle by the Risers, the Stars got a timely explosion from Riel Cervantes, who unloaded 18 of his 20 points in the second half, highlighted by his two triples in the final two-minute mark to steer Manila to a series clinching victory over Bataan, the top seed team in the tournament.

Cervantes hit two triples – the first one in the 2:34 mark that gave the Stars a 51-45 lead and the other one with 1:09 left that put Manila ahead, 54-47, and practically took the fight out of the Risers.

“Nakakuha lang ako ng momentum kaya mas nagkaroon ako ng kumpiyansa tumira,” said Cervantes.

Just as expected, both teams struggled on shooting, just like any other games here at the People’s Center. No team shot better than 28-percent with Bataan making only 19-of-66. Manila was even terrible, hitting only 25-percent (20-of-80).

Still, Manila found a way to win despite shooting only 50-percent from the foul line (12-of-24) as Bataan even had a horrendous stint shooting from the foul line of its home floor, making only 37-percent (10-of-27).

Head coach Philip Cezar of Manila believes his team won because of the extra effort on the defensive end.

“Yung pressure defense namin sa backcourt and yung extra effort namin sa rebound, malaking bagay yun,” he added.

Marvin Hayes grabbed 16 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end as he led the Stars in getting more second chance points. Manila had 19 second chance points, 11 more than its rival.