By ADRIAN STEWART CO
Bacolod City of Smiles tasted its third straight loss in the 2023 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) after bowing to Pampanga Giant Lanterns, 103-86, at the Bataan People’s Center in Orani, Bataan on Thursday evening, September 14.
The defeat dropped the Bacolod-based squad to a 10-17 win-loss slate, dampening their hopes of reaching the division quarterfinals with just one game remaining in their schedule.
The Vincee Salvador-mentored Bacolodnons were also shorthanded heading into the all-important game, as Valandre Chauca was unavailable along with Jaymarn Joshua Pabilona.
However, Bacolod still managed to keep in step with the league-leading Pampanga crew as they were just down 64-70 after a three-pointer by Regie Boy Basibas late in the third quarter.
However, Justine Baltazar and Encho Serrano stepped up for the Giant Lanterns as they widened the lead to 75-64, but consecutive hits from Christopher Menguez and Ryussei Koga pulled Bacolod to within 70-80 with six minutes in the game.
Pampanga tried to pull away after a three-point play by Baltazar and a layup by Raymond Binuya, but a three-pointer by Koga followed by two free throws by Mark Sarangay cut the deficit to 75-85 for Bacolod.
The Giant Lanterns went for the finishing blow as a three-pointer by Michael John Garcia followed by inside connections from Baltazar and Serrano gave them a 99-81 lead with more than two minutes left.
Serrano top-scored for the Giant Lanterns with 29 points, including five three-point conversions, to go with nine assists, four rebounds and a steal to be hailed as the Player of the Game.
Meanwhile, Baltazar finished with double-double 19 points and 14 rebounds, Garcia contributed 14 markers and John Bryle Bahio ended with 12 points and 14 rebounds as they improved to 24-2.
Koga led the way for Bacolod with 13 points, Domark Matillano contributed 12 markers, while Alfred Sedillo and Menguez chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the loss.
PAMPANGA 103 — Serrano 29, Baltazar 19, Garcia 14, Bahio 12, Clemente 7, Tolentino 6, Concepcion 5, Binuya 4, Apolonio 3, Sangalang 2, De Leon 2.
BACOLOD 86 — Koga 13, Matillano 12, Sedillo 11, Menguez 10, Alves 9, Alano 7, Cantimbuhan 6, Sarangay 6, Basibas 5, Stevens 4, Magbanua 3.
Quarterscores: 24-20, 51-43, 72-64, 103-86./ASC, WDJ