By Ivan Saldajeno
MANILA--Muntinlupa finally stopped its bleeding and trounced Imus on the road, 80-74, in the MPBL Datu Cup at the Imus City Sports Complex on Thursday night.
Playing for the second straight time minus Head Coach Aldin Ayo, the Cagers withstood a huge push by the Bandera and gave Jack Azcueta his first win as the former's interim coach.
Muntinlupa raced to a 25-9 lead at the start of the game as the team was on track for a road rage.
But Imus responded with 26-9 rally spanning to the second quarter to put the home squad on top, 35-34, as a tight battle ensued until the third quarter.
The Cagers threatened to pull away late in the third after going on a 13-0 run to open a 60-49 advantage, which they protected until midway in the fourth quarter.
However, the Bandera, despite a scary moment that saw Carlo Escalambre being stretchered off the court due to lower back problems, still managed to fight back and were within three, 74-77, with 6.1 seconds remaining.
Allan Mangahas finally iced it for Muntinlupa with a split from the line and a layup off a steal.
Felix Apreku balled out on his birthday with 18 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block for the Cagers, who moved back to a virtual tie for second place in the Southern Division with the Batangas City Athletics, 71-57 winners over the Paranaque Patriots earlier Thursday, at 10-5. The Cagers, who snapped a three-game losing streak, moved over the Athletics anew on a better winning rate.
Dave Moralde came close to his own double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds with six assists and one steal as well as Chito Jaime, who had 13 markers and eight boards.
Raniel Diwa made 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and three steals off the bench for the Bandera, who fell to 7-8.
Jonathan Rivera struggled in his birthday, only making 2-of-13 from the field for six points, although he too had seven rebounds, one steal, and one block.
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