BATANGAS CITY — The Batangas City Athletics is back at the upper half of the playoffs, but it didn’t come the easier route just as it did last time around.
Pushed to the limit by a gritty General Santos City Warriors side, the Tanduay-backed Athletics held on to preserve a 92-86 win and officially secure the No. 2 seat of the southern division of the MPBL Datu Cup playoffs here at the Batangas City Coliseum.
The Athletics will face the Imus Bandera, who secured the seventh place in the division following a 107-90 triumph over the already ousted Mandaluyong El Tigre.
Both Batangas City and Imus ended up in a tie with another team at the end of the elimination round.
The Athletics wound up in a tie with the Muntinlupa Cagers, both of them wrapping up their elims campaign with a 15-10 card. The Bandera, on the other hand, ended up with an 11-14 record, the same slate held by the Cebu Sharks.
But by virtue of the win over the other rule, the Athletics and the Bandera will get the higher seeding.
Batangas City got big games from the usual suspects before putting away its hard-fighting opponent.
Jeff Viernes, Jhaymo Eguilos and Denice Villamor came up with the big baskets when needed to endure a gutsy stand by the Warriors, who will end up at No. 4 in the southern division.
The three players conspired in a huge 10-2 run in the fourth period to calm down the Athletics. Behind their baskets, they were able to shatter the game’s final deadlock at 73-all and turned it to an 83-75 advantage.
Viernes finished with 21 points and six assists to lead the charge for the Athletics. Eguilos, last season’s Finals MVP, had 18 points on top of six rebounds and two blocks while Villamor added 16, including a steady three-of-four shooting from beyond the arc. — Rey Joble