DAVAO Occidental and Manila gun for division crowns and the national finals when they tackle Batangas City and San Juan, respectively, in separate venues in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup on Saturday.
The Davao Occidental Tigers battered the Batangas City Athletics, 66-48, in the South division best-of-three finals opener at Almendras Gymnasium in Davao on Thursday and will clinch the title with another victory at De La Salle Lipa.
The Manila Stars, on the other hand, survived the San Juan Knights’ tough challenge at FilOIl Flying V Centre, 91-88, also on Thursday, and need only to repeat their conquest at their home court, San Andres Sports Complex, to rule the North division.
A victory by either the Athletics or the Knights will force a deciding Game 3 for the division titles.
Employing a choking defense throughout, the Tigers forced the Athletics to commit 20 turnovers and shoot 31 percent on field goals en route to a franchise low output of 48.
The Tigers will again lean on veterans Mark Yee, Leo Najorda, Bonbon Custodio, Joseph Terso, Billy Robles and Joseph Terso to live up to their top-billing in the South division.
For the Athletics to stay afloat, Jeff Viernes, Jhaymo Eguilos and Val Acuna must come up with superb plays to neutralize the Tigers’ manpower advantage.
The Stars will be powered anew by Aris Dionisio, Chris Bitoon, Marvin Hayes, Reil Cervantes and Mafrk Lopez in their bid to upstage the Knights, being led by John Wilson, Ryan Ayonayon, Mac Cardona and Larry Rodriguez.