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Blackwater finally makes PBA playoffs after ousting Mahindra

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--In a battle between the PBA's "babies" for their first ever playoff stint, it was Blackwater which prevailed for Mahindra.

The Elite built a lead large enough to withstand the Enforcers' last stand and win, 108-99, to finally make the Philippine Cup knockout stages at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday.

Blackwater tore Mahindra apart in the second and the third quarters, blasting to a 57-35 scoreline in the middle two periods to open an 80-61 lead entering the final frame. Blackwater, a former PBA D-League champion, eventually led by as much as 20, 86-66, early in the fourth.

The Enforcers, who nearly made the playoffs in the two import-spiced conferences last season, then launched a comeback bid, outscoring the Elite, 33-18, in a nine-minute span to cut the lead to just five, 104-99, with 46 seconds remaining.

Mahindra had a chance to cut the lead further after forcing Mike Cortez, who had an inspired outing, to a five-second inbound violation, but L.A. Revilla, who began heating up late in the game, missed a quick three-pointer.

Cortez made up for his error by making two free throws off a Karl Dehesa foul to extend the lead to seven, 106-99, with 35 seconds remaining.

Dehesa missed a triple at the other end, and Cortez sealed Blackwater's first PBA playoff appearance with two more charities.

Cortez finished with a season-high 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting, ten rebounds, and one assist for the Elite, who will take on the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters in the opening playoff round with the latter holding a twice-to-beat advantage.

Aldrech Ramos had 22 markers, ten boards, one dime, and one steal for the Mahindra, who for the third straight time missed the playoffs right on the final day of eliminations and fourth time overall.

Box Scores:

Blackwater 108-Cortez 30, Cervantes 24, Gamalinda 16, Lastimosa 14, Dela Cruz 8, Erram 8, Ballesteros 4, Canada 2, Reyes 2, Golla 0

Mahindra 99-Ramos 22, Digregorio 20, Revilla 15, Canaleta 12, Dehesa 12, Yee 7, Guinto 6, Pinto 2, Webb 2, Pascual 1, Bagatsing 0, Hubalde 0, Paredes 0, Laure 0

Quarterscores: 23-26, 51-42, 60-61, 108-99

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