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Pampanga foils Bacoor, closes in on MPBL title

The Pampanga Giant Lanterns weathered the Bacoor Strikers repeated rallies to prevail, 68-65,  on Tuesday and move within a win of the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season national title at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga.

With the count tied at 61, Pampanga bunched seven points, courtesy of Archie Concepcion with 3 and a basket each by MJ Garcia and Encho Serrano, to swing the balance and post a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five National Finals.

Pampanga dominated Game One, 71-58, but met a more determined Strikers this time.

The Strikers had a chance to force extension, but James Kwekuteye missed his 3-point jumper and Mark Yee was unable to beat the buzzer for one last attempt.

Archie Concepcion, earlier chosen for the second Mythical Team, led Pampanga with 13 points and 8 rebounds to earn best player honors over newly installed MVP Justine Baltazar, who posted 13 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists.

Encho Serrano contributed 8 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, while John Lloyd Clemente and Jayson Apolonio added 7 points each for Gov. Dennis Pineda, also the Giant Lanterns’ head coach.

Atoning for his dismal 2-point output in the opener, Kwekuteye poured 16 points, 12 coming in the first half as the Strikers stayed close, 29-33. By then, Baltazar had 11 points and 5 rebounds.

Bacoor got 12 points from Chito Jaime and 11 from Yvan Ludovice.

The game was tight from the start with neither team leading by more than 7 points till the end.
A long triple by Game 1 top scorer Kurt Reyson put Pampanga back on top, 50-49, after three quarters.

MPBL Founder and CEO Manny Pacquiao attended the game and awarded Baltazar with the special MVP ball during the awarding ceremonies of the season’s best performers earlier.

Pampanga will try to sweep the best-of-five series on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor.