By Ricky Manliguis
ANTIPOLO-- Bacoor City recovered from a slow start before blasting the Rizal- Xentro Mall Crusaders, 74-63, to cap off Tuesday' s Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League action at the Ynares Center.
Gab Banal continued his scoring barrage as of late, leading the Strikers to its seventh win against four defeats to keep in step with Muntinlupa and Davao Occidental atop the South Division standings.
It also was a perfect debut for new mentor Leo Isaac, who took over the reins after the sudden departure of coach Jonathan "Budds" Reyes and guard Mikee Reyes.
The Strikers got its bearings back in the second quarter to turn a 16-20 deficit into a 37-28 lead at halftime. The team continued to pounce on the Crusaders in the third canto for a 61-44 bubble.
But the Crusaders refused to wilt down without a fight in the final quarter, even pulling to within 70-61 on Mark Doligon's triple with 2:14 left.
Banal took over from there, barreling his way for a contested lay-up, before putting off the finishing touches with two free throws with 56.7 seconds left.
After scoring a career-best 30 points against Navotas the last time out, Banal finished the game with 17 points, 11 in the second half, eight rebounds, and eight assists in almost 32 minutes of action.
Mark Montuano cashed in 13, while Bon Jovi Cipriano had 10 for Bacoor City.
Rizal failed to follow up its victory over San Juan to stay at the cellar of the South Division with a 4-8 slate. James Abugan had 14 points and six rebounds, while Chris Diputado and Doligon both issued 11.
BACOOR CITY 74-- Banal 17, Montuano 13, Cipriano 10, De Vera 8, Maconocido 8, Sumalinog 6, Rabor 4, Acuña 2, Prudente 2, Basañes 2, Morales 2, Aquino 0, Malig-on 0, Maurillo 0, Garcia 0.
RIZAL-XENTRO MALL 63-- Abugan 14, Diputado 11, Doligon 11, Benitez 8, Juanico 6, Santiago 5, Balagtas 4, Dela Cuesta 2, Banzali 2, Marquez 0, Mercado 0.
Quarterscores: 16-20, 37-28, 61-44, 74-63.