THE Bacoor Strikers struck hard from all fronts and routed the Batangas City Embassy Chill Athletics, 89-68, on Monday in Game 1 of the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season South Division Finals at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor City.
Powered by James Kwekuteye, Jhan McHale Nermal and Yvan Ludovice, who drilled in back-to-back triples, the Strikers recovered from a 6-10 deficit to surge ahead after the first quarter, 27-18, and never let up to move within a win of clinching their first crown in the 29-team league.
Kwekuteye posted 25 points, laced by 6 triples, 4 steals and 3 rebounds to earn best player honors. The former San Beda star was supported by Nermal with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, and veteran Mark Yee with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. Ludovice contributed 9 points, all from rainbow territory, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Strikers drilled in four straight triples, two by Kwekuteye and one each by Ludovice and Aaron Jeruta, to break the game apart, 45-26, late in the second quarter. Batangas’ Cedric Ablaza buried a triple, but the Strikers countered with a 6-point cluster for a 51-29 bulge at halftime.
Jhaymo Eguilos, a former key player for Batangas, capped a 6-point run with two free throws to shove Bacoor to its biggest spread, 64-37, with 3 minutes and 10 seconds to go in the third quarter. The Strikers canned 14 triples against only 10 for the Athletics. Although their offense clicked, Strikers Coach Alex Angeles believes it emanated from their defense.
“Our defense serves as our fuel. We just fed whoever is hot,” said Angeles, during the post-game interview also attended by Kwekuteye and Bacoor team owner Dennis Abella. Batangas got 15 points, 13 rebounds and 3 steals from Jeckster Apinan and 11 points plus 4 rebounds from Levi Hernandez.
On Friday, Bacoor will try to cut short the best-of-three series in Game 2 at the Batangas City Coliseum. The Pampanga Giant Lanterns seek the North Division crown against the San Juan Knights at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the FilOIl Flying V Arena in San Juan.|-BNN