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New-look Zamboanga plays "Grinch" on Bulacan with pre-Christmas road shocker

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--A virtually brand-new Zamboanga Valientes side came into the Bulacan Capitol Gymnasium in Malolos with a statement.

Unfortunately for the home side, the Bulacan Kuyas, they were at the receiving side of it.

Zamboanga unleashed its new fury on the road, stunning Bulacan, 75-72, in the final Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League game for 2018 on Saturday night.

The Valientes provided an early glimpse of the upset when they led the error-prone Kuyas, 21-11, after the first period.

Bulacan slowed Zamboanga down in the next two quarters and peaked in the third, outscoring its opponent, 25-13, to take a 56-51 lead.

However, the Valientes closed it out in the fourth quarter, going on a 12-2 run late in the period to stun the Kuyas for good.

Robin Roño, one of seven players picked up by Zamboanga in free agency, dropped 24 points, three rebounds, and six assists as the club entered the Christmas break in a virtual tie with Laguna and Cebu City for eighth place. Laguna and Cebu City (8-11) are ahead of Zamboanga (7-10) on winning percentage.

Von Lanete, one of the remaining players from the Valientes' opening day lineup, added 14 points, four rebounds, five assists, and one steal to help Roño as Raymond Valenzona won in his first game as head coach.

Jovit Dela Cruz made 15 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block for Bulacan, which lost for the first time at home this season.

The league will resume action on Jan. 3.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno