WHAT was expected to be a bumpy ride turned out to be a luxury cruise for the Manila Stars late Tuesday.
Catching the Batangas City Athletics off-form, the Stars won pulling away, 73-50, in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Season at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila.
With the Athletics sinking just one of their first 15 shots in the fourth quarter, the Stars surged beyond recall, 73-46.
Powered by Chris Bitoon and Aris Dionisio, the Stars handed the Athletics, champion of the inaugural Rajah Cup, their worst beating in the MPBL, eclipsing the 48-66 pounding the Athletics absorbed from the Davao Occidental Tigers in the South division semifinals of the Datu Cup.
Bitoon wound up with a game-high 20 points and 8 rebounds while Dionisio came through with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
The Tanduay-backed Athletics got 12 points from Jeff Viernes and 10 each from Jhaymo Eguilos and Jason Melano.
So cold were the Athletics they could only connect on 19 of 66 attempts from the floor and 7 of 16 free throws.
The MPBL goes to Olivarez College Gym on Wednesday with Nueva Ecija tangling with Iloilo in the 4 p.m. opener. Other matches pit San Juan against Bacolod at 6:30 p.m. and Paranaque against Nueva Ecija at 8:30 p.m.