MUNTINLUPA subdued Marikina, 85-76, to grab the solo lead in the Southern Division of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup late Thursday night at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex.
Playing in front of their wildly cheering crowd for the first time since losing Game Four of the best-of-five finals in the inaugural season, the Angelis Resort-backed Cagers needed one big burst in the third period where they unloaded 13 unanswered points to turn a 52-55 deficit to a double-digit lead.
From there on, there was no stopping the Cagers, who picked up their second win in as many games and moved up alone on top.
Chito Jaime, a PBA journeyman, led the way for the Cagers with a double-double effort of 19 points and 10 rebounds. He along with Felix Apreku, who grabbed 16 rebounds on top of eight points combined forces in making Muntinlupa a solid rebounding group.
The Cagers grabbed 51 rebounds, 12 more than their rivals.
Dhon Reverente, an athletic swingman, contributed 13, the same output produced by newcomer Ryan Costelo. Old reliable guard Allan Mangahas chipped in 12.
Earlier, Bacoor survived Cebu in a grueling, intense match, 76-71.
Oping Sumalinog, an Alab Pilipinas standout, paced the Strikers with 22 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. His getaway move in the last 48 seconds put the Strikers on safer ground, giving the team a 74-70 edge.
It was a big win for the Strikers, who are handled by head coach Budds Reyes and managed by long-time basketball executive Buddy Encarnado.
"It's still a long way to go. We just tried to fasttrack our system, but I know we'll play much better in the coming games," added Reyes.
Mark Montuano finished with a double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 boards.
Ex-pros Mikee Reyes and Gab Banal added 15 and 11 points, respectively.