Last time, we tackled the top contenders who are likely assured of a spot in the playoffs of the MPBL Datu Cup. This time, we’ll take a look at teams at the lower half of the standings vying for the top two spots in the quarterfinal round.
Over at the tough northern division, a wild battle to the top is seen. Five squads – Bataan Risers, San Juan Knights, Manila Stars, Makati Super Crunch, and the Bulacan Kuyas — are jostling for a better position.
This leaves the sixth, seventh and eighth spots to the other bidders.
The Mandaluyong El Tigre were deserted by their top players earlier than expected and perhaps that’s the price this team has to pay for tapping the services of ABL standouts Ray Parks and JR Alabanza. Other players who also left the squad were Prince Rivero and Thomas Torres.
Once considered as the top favorites, the El Tigre had since then scrambled for a win. At 7-8 card, Mandaluyong is not at the safest spot as teams like Navotas, Pampanga, Pasay, Valenzuela and the rejuvenated Quezon City team are also making their move.
Navotas and Quezon City have won back-to-back games, signifying their intention of joining into the mix of those playoff bidders.
Gabby Severino had taken over the head coaching post for the Clutch, who had since then picked up two straight wins to move up to No. 7 seed at 7-9.
The Capitals, on the other hand, also made their presence felt as if telling everyone not to count them out. Their last two victories had improved their win-loss card to 5-8, and although they are still at No. 11 seed, a win in their next game could move them up three notches higher.
Currently occupying the No. 8 seed are the Pampanga Lanterns at 7-10 and although they’ve won their last two games, coach Aldrin Morante believes they need to get as many wins as possible and keep their fate in their hands.
Pasay and Valenzuela are locked in ninth to 10th positions with the same 6-10 mark.
Down south, it looks like Davao Occidental, Muntinlupa and Batangas City are likely to secure the top four berths with anyone from Bacoor, Parañaque, Gen San, Imus and Laguna likely to join them.
But how do we see the rest of the field?
If the cut off should be made today, then Zamboanga, Cebu, Marikina, Rizal and Basilan will be already out of the running.
But there are still at least nine games left for all of these teams and their chances depend on how consistent they could perform. One win could change everything while another loss could dampen their hopes.
The race to the playoffs has definitely become more exciting for teams at the lower half of the standings.
Rey Joble is a member of the PBA Press Corps and Philippine Sportswriters Association.