BATANGAS City rode the wave of emotion from its home crowd to take the 84-75 victory over Zamboanga Friday at Batangas State University Gym and push their South Division quarterfinals to a sudden death Game Three in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Cup playoffs.
Jason Melano came up big with a do-it-all effort of 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals as the Athletics tied the best-of-three series to one game apiece.
Jhaymo Eguilos scored nine of his team-best 17 points in Batangas' killer 19-3 run to turn the game from a close 41-36 affair to a commanding 60-39 lead at the 2:46 mark of the third quarter. He also had 11 boards, three assists, and two blocks in the victory.
Santi Santillan, Robin Rono, and Alvin Pasaol tried to spark a late rally for Zamboanga, cutting the lead down to seven before Jeff Viernes calmly sank four freebies to put the game away late for the Athletics.
Moncrief Rogado also came off the bench to score 12 points, as Adrian Santos added 11 points and nine boards after scoring a pair of big putbacks in the final three minutes to help Batangas deny Zamboanga's late uprising.
"Zamboanga is a strong team. Babalik at babalik at babalik yan, so suwerte kami na na-sustain namin yung lead," said coach Woody Co as the Athletics weathered the absence of Gilas pool members Rey Suerte and Jaydee Tungcab.
Santillan led Zamboanga with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
Rono also shot 2-of-7 from distance to finish with 20 points, three boards, and three assists, as Pasaol got 14 and six in the setback.
The do-or-die Game Three between No. 4-ranked Batangas, backed by Tanduay and No. 5 Zamboanga, sponsored by Family's Brand Sardines, will be next Wednesday in Davao.
Batangas City 84 - Eguilos 17, Melano 14, Rogado 12, Santos 11, Viernes 8, Koga 5, Teodoro 5, Bragais 4, Lopez 3, Sara 3, Grimaldo 2.
Zamboanga 75 - Santillan 23, Rono 20, Pasaol 14, Manzo 7, Bonsubre 4, Reyes 2, Thiele 2, Villamor 2, Black 1, Arboleda 0, Asistio 0, De Vera 0.
Quarterscores: 18-23; 39-33; 62-44; 84-75.