BATANGAS CITY — Inaugural champion Batangas City and last season’s finalist Muntinlupa carved out contrasting victories on Tuesday night to start their campaign in the MPBL Datu Cup playoffs at the Batangas City Coliseum.
Veteran Lester Alvarez scored 16 points while Jeff Viernes cane through with timely baskets down the stretch as the Athletics held off a gritty Imus Bandera side, 77-69, at the start of their best-of-three quarterfinals series.
After going scoreless in the first three periods, Viernes, the team’s floor leader, knocked in eight points in the pivotal stretch as the Athletics moved a win away from making the Final Four of the southern division.
“I know there were nights like this, but this guy is a game changer,” said stand-in coach Woody Co of Viernes.
Muntinlupa outplayed Zamboanga, 89-78, behind the backcourt duo of Ryusei Koga and Allan Mangahas. Koga finished with 19 points, including three crucial triples in the fourth period while Mangahas scored only a point but dished out a league-record 17 assists.