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MPBL: San Juan seizes solo lead; Batangas, Mindoro triumph

MANILA, Philippines – San Juan took the solo lead while Batangas stayed close in the 6th MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Season at the Batangas City Coliseum on Wednesday.

The San Juan Knights dumped the Bicolandia Oragons, 99-58, for a 6-0 record in the elimination round, which shoved them ahead of five-game streakers Binan, Nueva Ecija and Quezon.

Showing their mettle, the Batangas City Tanduay Rum Masters trounced the Davao Occidental Tigers, 71-59, in the nightcap to climb to 6-1.

Pouncing on the token resistance put up by the Oragons (0-8), the Knights led by as far as 78-32, giving their coach, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the luxury of shuffling 14 players, 12 of whom managed to score.

With San Juan's Top Guns fielded sparingly, Egie Boy Mojica emerged the Knights' top scorer with 16 points; followed by Michael Calisaan with 15 points; John Galinato 13 points; Arvin Gamboa 11 points; and Michael Malonzo 10 points plus 10 rebounds.

Unlike the Knights, the Rum Masters needed to crawl out of a 19-31 hole before seizing control from the Tigers, whose slate fell to 5-2.

Juneric Baloria tallied 15 points for Batangas, which also benefitted from Cedric Ablaza's 12 points and 11 rebounds; and Dawn Ochea's 12 points, four rebounds and two steals.

Controlling the boards, 48-30, the Rum Masters poured 36 points inside the paint as against only 14 for the Tigers.

Meanwhile, the Mindoro Tamaraws rallied to force overtime then scored the game's last six points to stun the Abra Weavers, 80-76, in the opener.

Trailing, 54-64, the Tamaraws banked on Tey Teodoro's back-to-back triples and Andres Desiderio's five-point wind-up to knot the count at 72 in regulation.

The Weavers regained control through Roi Sumang and John Lloyd Clemente, 76-74, but it proved to be just a fling with glory as they went silent in the final 1 minute and 48 seconds.

In contrast, the Tamaraws pulled off the escape act through another triple by Teodoro, and a free throw each by Kint Ariar, Karl Bono and Art Patrick Aquino.

Mindoro improved to 2-5, while Abra tumbled to 3-4 despite new coach Yong Garcia calling the plays.

Bono delivered 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals for