By Ivan Saldajeno
QUEZON CITY--Mandaluyong may be the more highly touted team to give Batangas City a challenge for the MPBL Datu Cup title.
But on early Wednesday, Muntinlupa showed that it deserves a Rajah Cup Finals rematch against Batangas City.
The Cagers opened their bid in the second conference of the inaugural MPBL season with an 86-74 win against the El Tigre at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In a match that came to an end just before 12:30 a.m., a rarity in club basketball play even globally, Muntinlupa's second quarter shutdown of Mandaluyong was enough for the Rajah Cup runner-up to give the expansion franchise led by reigning ABL local MVP Ray-Ray Parks a rude welcome to the league.
Following a hot start by the El Tigre led by Parks and Jun-Jun Bonsubre, the Cagers limited them to only 10 points while converting 26 of their own with huge contributions from Dave Moralde and Allan Mangahas.
Muntinlupa kept the lead for the entire second half and never looked back.
Chito Jaime led the Cagers with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two blocks, while Mangahas came off the bench to add 16 markers, six boards, five dimes, and two steals.
Bong Go, despite being suited up for the game, did not play a single second, although he participated in a special three-point shootout that ensued during the opening ceremonies.
Felix Apreku finished with a double-double of 16 rebounds and 10 points with two assists and one block.
Parks converted 21 points, 10 caroms, and four assists for the El Tigre, but he committed six turnovers, four off offensive fouls, as well.
Muntinlupa 86-Jaime 17, Mangahas 16, Moralde 12, Apreku 10, Llagas 9, Ortuoste 8, Ylagan 7, Basibas 6, Stevens 1, Reverente 0, Saldua 0, Costelo 0
Mandaluyong 74-Parks 21, Javillonar 14, Rivero 12, Bonsubre 9, Lozada 5, Gatchalian 5, Cauilan 4, Vidal 2, Andaya 2, Alabanza 0, Cunanan 0, Abrigo 0, Boholano 0
Quarterscores: 20-26, 46-36, 67-59, 86-74
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