BATANGAS CITY — Zamboanga became the latest low-ranked team to pull off a quarterfinal series win over a highly-rated rival as it ushered Muntinlupa, last season’s runner-up to the exit door of the MPBL Datu Cup even as inaugural staging champion Batangas City kept its back-to-back championships aspiration following its victory late Monday night here at the Batangas City Coliseum.
Zamboanga, backed by Family’s Brand Sardines, survived Muntinlupa-Angelis Resort, 87-83, in their rubber match, and moved on to the semifinal round of the southern division.
This time, Zamboanga got big games from players who stepped up to the challenge — Joseph Nalos and Ivan Villanueva, who both ended up with a double-double performance.
A back up guard, Nalos finished with 19 points on top of 10 assists. His clutch short jumper in the last 39 seconds gave Zamboanga an 84-83 lead.
Villanueva, an undersized frontliner, came away with 18 points and 10 boards. More than his timely production in offense, the burly but shifty player came up with a big defensive gem by stealing the ball from Ryusei Koga in the closing seconds of the game.
That forced Muntinlupa to give up a foul as Von Lanete split his charities for an 85-83 Zamboanga lead.
Muntinlupa had several chances, but Chito Jaime missed a short jumper and on the offensive board, Felix Apreku was called for a travelling, allowing Zamboanga to gain ball possession.
Robin Roño, who was fouled in the final two seconds, ensured Zamboanga’s win with two free throws.
Batangas City blasted Imus, 92-65, in the night cap, to set up a Final Four showdown with Zamboanga.
Jeff Viernes was back in his usual self, scoring 18 points, but it was Lucas Tagarda who played his finest game of the season.
A seasoned veteran, Tagarda came off the bench and produced 13 markers. Jhaymo Eguilos had 12 points and nine rebounds while Mon Rogado added 10.
One player who stood out, providing quality minutes was Adrian Santos, who grabbed 13 boards to go along with six markers. — Rey Joble