BALANGA, Bataan—Valenzuela and Paranaque turned to their small men to play a bigger role in towing their respective teams to crucial wins in the MPBL-Anta Rajah Cup at the People’s Center Capitol here.
Rocky Acidre knocked in six triples, including the go-ahead basket inside the final three-minute mark and his split charities in the last five seconds to propel the Valenzuela Classic-Yulz to a tense 83-80 win over the Muntinlupa Cagers-Angelis Resort.
In the main game, Paranaque travelled from south to north to outlast host Bataan, 74-71, of this event put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with former PBA MVP Kenneth Duremdes as commissioner.
The Gamboa Coffee-backed Patriots got a big lift from Ryusell Koga, who came away with a season-high 16 points, including a backbreaking triple during the crucial stage of the match to frustrate the BaiShipping-Defenders and their wildly-cheering crowd that packed the arena.
Acidre and another deadshot player, Drian Celada, came through with clutch baskets in the crucial stages of the game.
With Muntinlupa up by three, Celada knocked in a jumper, before Acidre followed it up with a cold-blooded trey after a missed offensive thrust by the Cagers, putting the Classic ahead, 75-73, with still 3:19 left.
Down the stretch, the Classic were able to keep their composure while the Cagers couldn’t hit the big shots, including the crucial free throws.
Dave Moralde missed two foul shots with 2:18 left, while the ever reliable Chito Jaime also couldn’t sink in his gift shots before Felix Apreku came through with a split to break the Cagers’ dry spell as Muntinlupa trailed by one, 78-77, with still 59 seconds to go.
After consecutive misses on both squads, ex-PBA guard Paolo Hubalde completed a three-point play off a foul from Apreku and shoved the Classic ahead, 81-77.
But the Cagers refused to quit.
A triple from Jaime in the last 17 seconds kept the Cagers breathing. The Cagers were forced to foul in the next play and they gave it on Jeff Javillonar, who split his charities in the final 11 seconds of the match.
With a chance to tie or win it with a three-point shot, the Cagers allowed Allan Mangahas to operate but turned the ball over.
Acidre, who was fouled in the process, split his charities, leaving the Cagers to map up one last play in the last five seconds.
Jaime, one of only five players averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, received the ball and let loose a trey, that bounced out of the rim, allowing Valenzuela to escape with its fifth win in seven games to forge a tie for second to third places with the Quezon City Capitals-Royal Manila in second to thirds places.