By Ivan Saldajeno
BAGUIO--Rizal recovered from a shaky third quarter to repulse Marikina, 75-69, in the MPBL Datu Cup at the Batangas City Sports Center in Batangas City on Thursday night.
Appearing to be on track for a blowout after taking a 41-31 halftime lead, the Crusaders sputtered in the third quarter as the Shoemasters outscored them, 23-12, to take a 54-53 lead.
Rizal then started the fourth quarter on a 17-5 run to take a 70-59 advantage with 5:11 to play.
Marikina still had one final push, going on a 10-2 run to cut the lead to just three, 72-69, with 1:32 to play, but Marco Balagtas scored the dagger layup in the next play to help seal the win for Rizal.
Balagtas finished with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and one steal, while Eric Dela Cuesta and Marvin Mercado each added 11 markers for the Crusaders as their bench players took over in the game.
Erwin Sta. Maria's 24-point outing went down the drain as the Shoemasters fell to a three-way tie with the Paranaque Patriots and the Basilan Steel in eighth place in the Southern Division at 4-5.
The Crusaders, on the other hand, moved up to 3-7.
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