THE Iloilo United Royals continued to sparkle when they subdued the Bataan Risers, 84-78, on Monday in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan Season at Blue Eagle Gym in Quezon City.
Their spirits buoyed by a 67-64 conquest of the Paranaque Patriots on June 28, the Royals surprisingly dominated the talent-laden Risers, surging to a 77-67 spread from which the Camaya Coast-backed squad were unable to recover.
Richard Escoto, who drilled in the game-clinching triple against the Patriots, shone for the expansion team anew with 19 points and 11 rebounds as he combined with Aaron Jeruta and Samboy de Leon to deal the Risers a second straight defeat after an opening win.
Jeruta, formerly of the San Juan Knights, matched Escoto's 19 points to go with 6 assists while De Leon, formerly of the Navotas Clutch, scored 16 and made seven assists.
Among the MPBL's five new teams, Iloilo United has been the most successful thus far and team owner Julio Javelosa wants it to stay that way.
“Yes, I am confident we will make a Cinderella run, which is happening now,” said Javelosa. “But we will have to work harder to continue this.”
Coach Eric Gonzales is keeping expectations modest despite the strong start.
“Hindi namin masabi, but we keep on preparing the team,” said Gonzales, attributing their victory over the Risers to “breaks of the game.”
The Risers got 18 points from Sean Paul Manganti, 13 from Ryan Batino and 11 each from John Villarias and Chito Jaime.
In the opener, Navotas Uni-Pak won the war of sardines as it bested Bacolod Master's, 78-69.
Way behind after three quarters, Navotas struck in the fourth through the efforts of Allan Evangelista and Elmer Cabahug.
The 37-year-old Evangelista, skipper of the 2006 UST Glowing Goldies, made eighth of his team-high 14 points while Cabahug scored nine of his 11 in that span to lift Navotas to an even 1-1 slate.
Other major contributors for Navotas were Francis Munsayac with 13 and Ronald Roy with 10.
Bacolod, which drew 18 points from Marc Tallo, 13 from Paolo Javelona and 10 from Jopher Custodio, who snagged 12 rebounds, dropped its second straight after an initial victory.