MPBL: Vitug lifts Rizal past Laguna

CEDRIC Ablaza bounced back from a mediocre showing last time around and played a near perfect game Thursday night to lift Makati to a hard-earned 79-77 win over Davao Occidental in the MPBL Datu Cup at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan Laguna.

Shackled by Batangas in Makati’s first loss in the tournament last time around, the hardworking forward made all but one of his 10 attempts from the field on his way to finishing with 22 points on top of eight rebounds.

It was a good way for Ablaza to atone from his paltry performance in the Skyscrapers’ loss to the Athletics where he was held to just two points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field.

Ablaza made sure he’ll work double time in his shooting the past few practices and shot more efficiently this time around. He made all of his three three-point shots and had five crucial points in the killer stretch in the fourth, allowing the Skyscrapers to build a 66-59 lead heading into the last five-minute mark of the game.

With the win, Makati improved its win-loss record to 3-1 while handing Davao Occidental its second straight loss.

But Makati’s victory over Davao Occidental was overshadowed by Rizal’s thrilling come-from-behind victory over host team Laguna as Alvin Vitug finished with 21 points, including the game-winning bucket in the final second of the game to propel the Xentro Mall-backed Crusaders to an 80-79 win over the Krah-supported Heroes in the second game.

Vitug was on spotlight in the last 11 seconds of the game when he was fouled while taking a three-point shot from deep left. He made two of three shots from the charity stripe to put his team on top, 78-77.

Denok Miranda answered back with a tough drive to the basket that put the Heroes back on the driver’s seat with four seconds to go, 79-78, forcing Rizal coach Braulio Lim to sue for time.

Inbounding the ball from the sidelines, Lim drew up a play for his shooters. Eric dela Cuesta became the accidental receiver as Vitug decided to go on a backdoor. The veteran guard decided to go strong to the basket and fed off Vitug at the last minute who scored a banked shot for the game winner.

It was Rizal’s first win in four games, but Lim and his troops savoured the sweetness of victory, especially after watching his team fought back from 18 points down before completing a win.

“Ang sabi ko lang, magtiwala sila sa sarili nila. Itong mga ganitong klaseng panalo ang napakasarap. Nakaka-proud,” added Lim.