Batangas beats Zamboanga, faces Davao Occidental in south finals

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BATANGAS CITY — With its season hanging in balance, Batangas City Athletics brought it’s A-game in front of their local folks and it started from Val Acuña, last season’s Most Valuable Player.

Acuña knocked in nine of his 17 points in the third period as the Tanduay-backed Athletics thwarted repeated rallies by the Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines and pulled off an 80-72 win in their third and deciding game of their do-or-die semifinals encounter late Tuesday night at the Batangas Sports Arena here.

With the win, Batangas City will move on to the championship round of the southern division and will go on to face the Davao Occidental Tigers-Cocolife on Thursday, 7 p.m., at the Rizal Memorial College Gymnasium.

Long-time teammates Jeff Viernes and Jhaymo Eguilos picked up from where Acuña left off as the duo combined forces in the final quarter, scoring 10 of the 20 points produced by the squad.

A picture of consistency for majority of the season, Viernes went an assist shy from posting a double-double performance as he tallied 15 points and nine rebounds.

His partner, Eguilos, a key figure in Batangas City’s championship run last season, produced 13 markers while another player, Adrian Santos, came a rebound away from tallying a double-double showing as he had 10 points and nine boards for the Athletics, who forced their rivals to 21 turnovers, which resulted to 18 points.

Head coach Mac Tan and the Athletics had to leave for Davao City Wednesday right away to prepare against the favored and well-rested Tigers, who ended up as the No. 1 team in the south division at the end of the elimination round.

The Tigers swept the Bacoor Strikers in the semifinal round and given the ample time to rest, they are the odds on pick against the Athletics. — Rey Joble