By Ivan Saldajeno
MANILA--Batangas City nearly shut down Mandaluyong early on before holding on to a 61-57 win in the MPBL Datu Cup at the Jose Rizal University Gymnasium on Thursday night.
The Athletics held the El Tigre to just nine points in the first quarter, although the latter kept the game close by only letting 13 points from the former.
Mandaluyong eventually picked up the pace offensively in the second quarter, outscoring Batangas City, 18-12, to enter halftime ahead, 27-25.
The Athletics answered with a 20-11 third quarter to retake the lead, 45-38, entering the final period.
The El Tigre still put up a fight in the final frame, cutting the lead down to just two, 59-57, with 18 seconds left.
But the gallant stand turned out to be a bit too late as Lester Alvarez sealed the win for Batangas City with two free throws after a quick foul with 17 seconds to play.
Jeff Viernes put up 13 points, five rebounds, six assists, and one steal off the bench in his MPBL debut as the Athletics, following the GenSan Warriors' loss to the Caloocan Supremos in the first game, found themselves back in the Top 8 in the Southern Division at 5-6.
Val Acuna added 11 points, making all of his three shots inside the three-point line, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal.
Ray-Ray Parks also put up 13 points, but he struggled all game long, only making 3-of-13 from the field and 7-of-14 from the free throw line as the El Tigre lost for the third straight time and fell to 6-4, letting the idle Makati Skyscrapers get a share of fifth place in the Northern Division.
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