By Ivan Saldajeno
PASIG—Binan opened a gap in the race for the eighth and the last playoff spot for the Southern Division of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup after defeating Valenzuela, 74-66, at the Bataan People’s Center in Balanga on Monday night.
The Heroes also put up a better job on defense as they shut down the Classic for the first three quarters before holding them off in the end.
Binan actually threatened to pull away in the second quarter, outscoring Valenzuela, 22-13, to take a 37-25 lead at halftime.
The Classic, however, mounted a comeback bid after limiting the Heroes to just 11 points in the third quarter and opening the fourth with a 7-1 run to trim the lead to two, 48-46, with 7:13 left.
Binan restored order momentarily as it went on an 10-0 blast to stretch the gap back to 12, 58-46, with 4:51 to play.
Valenzuela still put up a scare, going on an 13-4 rally to draw to within three, 59-62, with 2:20 remaining.
However, the Heroes countered with a 10-3 run to secure the victory.
Ralf Olivarez highlighted an impressive all-around game with a career-high 20 points on top of seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks against no turnover for Laguna, which moved up to 10-13, a half-game ahead of Zamboanga (8-12) for eighth place in the Southern Division.
Raymond Ilagan made up for an off night from centers Rocky Antonares and Michael Mabulac scoring-wise as he put up 15 points alongside 17 rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Antonares, who got a rare start, made up for a quiet offense at the other end, grabbing six rebounds and one block.
Floyd Dedicatoria made 19 markers, nine boards, one assist, one block, and two steals for Valenzuela, whose own playoff bid hit a snag as it fell to 8-14, 1.5 games behind Pampanga for eighth place in the Northern Division.
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