By Ivan Saldajeno
SAN JUAN, MM—Manila held off a late push by Marikina to escape with a 91-89 win in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at the Muntinlupa Sports Complex on Thursday night.
In a battle between Metro Manila teams with contrasting fates, the Stars almost bubbled a dominating performance on both ends of the floor in the middle two quarters, but they got a sigh of relief in the end.
After a slow start that saw the Shoemasters leading, 25-16, at the end of the first quarter, the Stars came alive defensively in the second, limiting their opponents to only 13 points and forcing a 38-all tie at the end of the period.
Manila then coupled the defensive effort with a 32-point bomb in the third frame to take a 70-63 advantage entering the fourth.
Marikina, however, opened the final canto with an 8-0 run to go up again, 71-70, with 8:02 left, triggering a wild sequence midway through the quarter.
The Stars had a chance to pull away again as Mac Montilla made a 5-0 run possible to give them an 87-81 cushion with 2:06 left.
The Shoemasters never wavered and were within two again with 38 seconds to play.
They even had a chance to steal the win as Marvin Hayes missed on his potential dagger shot, but Jay-Ar Ng Sang missed a potential go-ahead triple and Aris Dionisio ran away the clock in the end.
Hayes and Cris Bitoon each made 19 points off the bench for Manila, which moved up to 20-4, a half-game behind Bataan (19-2) for the top spot in the Northern Division.
Hayes completed a double-double after tallying 10 rebounds, while Bitoon came close to one of his own with nine caroms.
Ryan Costelo’s 26-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist, and two-steal showing went down the drain as Marikina fell to 7-15, 2.5 games behind Biñan for eighth place in the Southern Division.
Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno