PAMPANGA leaned on the all-around brilliance of Mark Cruz to deal also-ran Rizal a 20-point beating, 90-70, and clinch a playoff berth in the Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season at Ynares Arena in Pasig on Thursday.
The pint-sized Cruz stuffed the stat sheet with a triple-double of 10 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds, helping Pampanga forge a two-way tie with Bulacan for fourth spot in the North Division on 18-9 win-loss cards.
Already up by 12 points entering the second half, Pampanga unleashed an 18-8 run capped by a Reil Cervantes three-pointer to post its biggest lead at 23, 58-35, at the 3:52 mark of the third period.
Rizal was able to cut it to 12 on a Buenaventura Raflores three-pointer with 2:34 in the fourth frame, 67-79, but it was the closest it could get as Raymond Binuya, Dan Alberto and Cruz slammed the door with an 8-2 spurt.
“Ang target namin is to go one game at a time, try to win as much as we can hanggang matapos kasi nag po-positioning tayo. Sa akin, kahit sino ang makalaban namin ang importante ay gawin namin yung part namin,” said Pampanga head coach Bong Ramos.
Michale Juico led the Giant Lanterns’ offensive assault with 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field on top of eight rebounds and two assists while Levi Hernandez added 14 points.
Rizal, now 4-21, was led by Kelvin Gregorio with 21 points and eight rebounds. Golden Coolers team captain Mark Benitez chipped in 10 markers and five boards.
Pampanga (90) – Juico 19, Hernandez 14, Cruz 10, Cervantes 9, Maiquez 9, Baltazar 7, Binuya 7, Gomez 6, Muyang 4, Alberto 3, Acuno 2, Baltazar 0, Enriquez 0, Fabian 0, Salcedo 0
Rizal (70) – Gregorio 21, Benitez 10, Raflores 9, Hoyohoy 7, Leynes 5, Casajeros 5, Saliente 5, Bacay 3, Regalado 3, Butel 0, Raflores 0, Rosales 0
Quarterscores: 15-18, 39-27, 66-47, 90-70