Barako Bull seals place in PBA playoffs as RR Garcia douses cold water on NLEX rally
RR Garcia banged in 22 points for Barako Bull, including nine on three-pointers. Jerome Ascano

SOPHOMORE guard RR Garcia stepped up big in the clutch while Barako Bull made some key stops down the stretch to outlast NLEX, 92-87, and clinch a place in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Garcia, acquired from GlobalPort in an offseason trade, provided the scoring punch for a Barako Bull side that has come alive in the final half of the single-round eliminations after a slow start to the season.

The 5-10 guard out of Far Eastern University banged in 22 points. The last of his three three-pointers gave Barako Bull its largest lead of the game at 80-73 entering the final three minutes.

The Energy's fourth win in five games after a 0-5 start vaulted them to ninth place and into the 10-team playoffs.

NLEX, on the other end, continued its free fall, dropping to 10th place in the standings with its 3-7 record, leaving a small window of opportunity for expansion team KIA which needs a sweep of its last two games.

“Motivation lang dito is to use this (game) as our preparation for the coming playoffs, stretching ourselves dito para sa playoffs,” said Barako Bull coach Koy Banal.

“The good thing is, the guys responded well.”

Barako Bull drew balanced scoring from veterans Chico Lanete and Willy Wilson, who knocked in 13 points apiece, while Mick Pennisi and JC Intal added 12 and 10, respectively.

Asi Taulava registered his seventh double-double output for the season after finishing with 17 points and 15 rebounds in a losing effort, while Macmac Cardona led the Road Warriors in scoring with 23.

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