MPBL: Zamboanga sets up semis showdown with Batangas

Zamboanga completed the daunting task of making it to the semifinals the hard way by outlasting Muntinlupa, 87-83, in their do-or-die quarterfinals match on Monday night and setting up a Final Four showdown with Batangas City in the south division of the MPBL Datu Cup Monday night here at the Batangas City Coliseum.

The Family’s Brand Sardines-backed Zamboanga squad turned to unlikely sources Joseph Nalos and Ivan Villanueva in completing a series win. Zamboanga became the latest low-ranked team to advance to the Final Four as the sixth seeded squad stunned the No. 3 seed Muntinlupa-Angelis Resort.

A back up guard, Nalos finished with with 19 points on top of 10 assists. His clutch short jumper in the last 39 seconds gave Zamboanga an 84-83 lead.

Villanueva, an undersized frontliner, came away with 18 points and 10 boards. More than his timely production in offense, the burly but shifty player came up with a big defensive gem by stealing the ball from Ryusei Koga in the closing seconds of the game.

Following a steal, Zamboanga went to Von Lanete, who was fouled in the process. He split his charities to give his team an 85-83 lead.

In the next play, the Cagers turned to Chito Jaime, but the ex-PBA player missed a potential game-tying basket, but they got another chance when Felix Apreku was able to get the rebound but committed a crucial travelling violation.

Zamboanga held on to the ball and Robin Roño, who was fouled in the process, secured the team’s victory with two free throws.

Batangas City’s win over Imus was anti-climatic, but the 92-65 runaway triumph was enough to put them to the Final Four – and bolstered its chances of repeating as champions.

The inaugural staging champions supported by Tanduay turned to Jeff Viernes, who knocked in 18 points, but it was Lucas Tagarda who played his finest game of the season.

A seasoned veteran, Tagarda came off the bench and produced 13 markers. Jhaymo Eguilos had 12 points and nine rebounds while Mon Rogado added 10.

One player who stood out, providing quality minutes was Adrian Santos, who grabbed 13 boards to go along with six markers.