MALOLOS -- Basilan started the new year with a bang by pulling off a huge upset win over inaugural staging champion Batangas City even as Navotas invaded Bulacan and came up with a big win in the MPBL Datu Cup late Saturday night at the Bulacan Capitol gymnasium here.
The Steel turned back the Tanduay-backed Athletics, 94-89, to keep its hopes alive in the southern division of this tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
Macky Acosta led the way for Basilan with 21 points and led the Steel’s steady shooting from beyond the arc.
Basilan shot a steady 43-percent from beyond the arc, making 13 of 30 shots. Batangas was shooting even better, making 12-of-26 for 46-percent.
The two teams combined for a league record 25 three-point shots made.
For the Steel, it was their first back-to-back victories in franchise history.
They rallied from 15 points down, 45-30 and trailed most of the way until a big surge in the third period allowed them to come back.
Basilan had its first taste of the lead in the 5:42 mark of the third period off a three-point basket by Jhaps Bautista and since then, the two teams battled it out down to an exciting finale.
Acosta’s two free throws in the last 17 seconds and a big stop by Basilan in Batangas’ last offensive trip practically sealed the win for the Steel, who remained at 11th spot of the southern division, but improved their win-loss record to 6-12.
While Basilan had to fight back from a big deficit to win, Navotas was practically in control of the match from start to finish on its way to a dominating 98-89 win over host team Bulacan.
Led by veterans Jai Reyes and new recruits Jojo Duncil and Samboy de Leon, the Clutch were able to silence the home crowd, but for coach Gabby Severino, Navotas’ domination was a product of good team defense.
“Our mindset was to play good defense and that’s the reason why we were able to silence the crowd and Bulacan as a team,” added Severino.
Reyes finished with 24 points while the two new additions – Duncil and De Leon – also made key contributions for the Clutch, who improved to 8-10 and moved to sixth spot in the northern division of this tournament.
Duncil had 14 markers while De Leon added 11. Both ex-pros were acquired by the Clutch via free agency.