THE Davao Occidental Tigers and Muntinlupa Cagers trounced their respective rivals Thursday to rank 1-2 in the South division of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at Muntinlupa Sports Complex.
The Tigers cut loose early and never allowed the Rizal Crusaders to catch up en route to an 84-74 victory, while the Cagers drew double digits from five players to rout the Bulacan Kuyas, 86-66.
Thwarting repeated rallies by the Crusaders, the Tigers led by 11 in each of the first three quarters before exerting just enough effort to post their 19th win against 4 losses and tighten their hold of top spot.
The Cagers, who led by as many as 31 points, 72-41, improved to 14-9 and displaced the Batangas City Athletics (14-10 ) at second spot.
Overall, the Tigers shared second spot with North division powerhouses Manila Stars and Makati Super Crunch, and solo leader Basilan Risers, who boast a 21-2 record.
Mark Yee again led the Cocolife-backed Tigers’ offense with 23 points and 8 rebounds, followed by Emmanuel Calo with 13 points in just 13 minutes and 18 seconds of play.
With victory certain, 80-62, going to the last three minutes, the Tigers finally relaxed on defense, allowing the Xentro Mall-backed Crusaders to put up a semblance of a fight before dropping to 7-17.
The Crusaders, already out of playoffs contention, got 10 points each from Eric Dela Cuesta and Jerome Juanico.
Former pro Chito Jayme presided over the Cagers' romp with 18 points, followed by Dhon Reverente with 12, and Felix Apreku, Regie Boy Basibas and Ryusei Koga with 10 each.
The Kuyas, being supported by Mighty Sports headed by Ceasar Wongchuking, skidded to 13-11.
The top eight teams from each division after the 25-game round-robin eliminations will advance to the playoffs of the league founded by Sen. Manny Pacquiao and outfitted by LGR Sportswear.