By Ivan Saldajeno
MANILA--Since Jeff Viernes came in, Batangas City won its last two games and has found itself back in the thick of things in the early MPBL Datu Cup playoff chase.
In his first game at home, Viernes showed how he turned the team around.
Viernes provided the Athletics a huge spark off the bench as they downed the San Juan Knights, 85-78, at the Batangas City Sports Center on Tuesday night.
Viernes gave Batangas City the energy it needed when he came on, banking on his quickness to get breakaway layups early into the game.
But his most important baskets came down the stretch when he, who entered the game struggling to score from the outside, dropped three straight triples that helped his team take an 81-71 lead with 1:34 remaining.
San Juan still put up a fight, going on a 7-2 run that cut the lead down to five, 83-78, with 26 seconds to play.
Viernes kept the door open for the Knights as he missed two clutch free throws in the next play, but the Athletics' defense forced John Wilson to a heavily challenged triple that he missed.
Jaymo Eguilos, who grabbed the rebound afterward, iced the game with two free throws.
Viernes finished with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting, five rebounds, four assists, and one steal for Batangas City, which won despite the absence of Head Coach Mac Tan. Assistant Coach Woody Co took the interim role for the match.
Bong Quinto announced his return to the MPBL by adding 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists to backstop Viernes in lifting Batangas City to its third straight win, tying Paranaque in the Southern Division standings at 7-6.
Wilson put up 16 markers, six boards, three dimes, one steal, and two blocks for San Juan, which fell to third place in the Northern Division standings at 10-3.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno