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Bicol escapes QC's upset bid to bolster MPBL playoff chances

Ronjay Buenafe squeezes in for a layup. MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

BINAN--Bicol survived a wild finish to keep its hold of the eighth spot in the MPBL Southern Division standings through an 89-87 win against Quezon City at the Alonte Sports Arena on Saturday night.

Ronjay Buenafe scored the marginal free throws, while Chris Lalata grabbed the game-saving steal as the Volcanoes, despite getting their groove early in the fourth quarter, still had to hold off the Capitals in the end.

Down 60-63 after three periods, Bicol caught fire in the first four minutes of the fourth, going on a 15-6 run to take a 75-69 lead.

But following an exchange of baskets, QC went on an 8-1 run to reclaim the lead, 83-82, with 3:12 to play.

Free throws from Buenafe and Jerome Garcia put the Volcanoes back up, 86-83, but Fidel Castro scored on back-to-back layups to forced the last deadlock of the game at 87-all with 1:14 remaining.

Buenafe then fished a foul from Mark Olayon while going for a layup, leading to the eventual go-ahead free throws with 48.7 seconds left.

Bicol had a chance to seal the win early on after forcing QC to a shotclock violation, but the former turned the ball as well in the next play, giving the latter 13.2 seconds to force overtime at least.

Olayon, struggling to find an open lane for the layup, opted to pass to the left corner, but Lalata picked Olayon's pass and found Buenafe, who despite muffing the potential dagger layup milked enough time for the Capitals not get a decent attempt in the end.

"Nag-gamble na kami doon. We switched everyone kahit na may tendency na magkakaroon ng mismatch. Sabi ko lang, 'Recover lang agad.' Sakto pagdrive ni Olayon, nandoon si Chris," Volcanoes coach Monel Kallos explained the deciding defensive gem.

Buenafe finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists for Bicol, which moved up to 15-13, 1.5 games ahead of Cebu for the last playoff spot in the South.

The Sharks, however, are playing the Imus Bandera as of posting as they look to stay close to the Volcanoes.

Alwyn Alday added 14 points, one rebound, two assists, and two steals, while Lalata had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds with four assists, three blocks and one steal.

Ryan Costelo fired 25 markers with six boards, seven dimes, and one steal for QC, which sank further to 10-18.

Olayon (13 points and 12 rebounds) and Clark Derige (16 points and 10 rebounds) each added a double-double with the former just short of a triple-double with eight assists.

The Scores:

Bicol-LCC Stores 89 - Buenafe 22, Garcia 16, Alday 14, Lalata 13, Aldave 11, Mondragon 4, Alfonso 3, Olea 3, Ongteco 2, Lao 1, Guerrero 0, Manalang 0, Gusi 0.

Quezon City-WEMSAP 87 - Costelo 25, Derige 16, Olayon 13, Castro 8, Medina 7, Sison 6, Barua 5, Atabay 3, Olea 2, Morillo 2, Gadon 0.

Quarterscores: 20-20, 38-40, 60-63, 89-87.

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