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Playoff race in MPBL South becomes wilder as Bicol shocked by also-ran Rizal

By Dugout Philippines

MALOLOS – Also-ran Rizal-Xentro Mall played the spoiler role, outlasting playoff-hopeful Bicol-LCC Stores in a tight 79-77 outing in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Cup here at the Malolos Sports Convention Center, Thursday.

Down by five points, 70-75, Bicol’s Jerome Garcia drilled a trey before going 1-of-2 from the line to slice Rizal’s lead to just a point with 1:21 remaining in the game.

Mark Benitez then showed nerves of steel, firing from three-point range to stretch the Golden Coolers’ cushion to four points, 78-74. 

In another ditch to save his team from defeat, Garcia once again pulled up from deep to slice the lead to just a solitary point with 6.9 ticks left before Benitez bagged the game with a split from the line.

“My team kasi have nothing to lose, we just have to respond to the way they were playing siguro nag relax sila thinking na hindi na kami lalaban but my players… ang kagandahan sa kanila, laban pa rin sila,” said Rizal head coach Jayvee Gayoso.

Benitez 17 points, 10 boards, and three assists for the 5-22 Golden Coolers, who are still dead last in the North Division.

Jayvee Vidal chipped in 14 points and five rebounds while Kelvin Gregorio finished with 16 points and four boards.

On the other hand, Garcia led Bicol with 19 points built on five three-pointers. Ronjay Buenafe added 13 points and seven assists while Chris Lalata had 12 points and nine boards.

The Volcanoes remained at the eight spot of the South Division with a 15-14 standing – one game ahead fellow playoff-hopeful Cebu, who possesses a 13-14 standing.

The Scores:

Rizal-Xentro Mall (79) – Benitez 17, Vidal 14, Gregorio 13, Raflores 11, Casajeros 9, Hoyohoy 8, Lacastesantos 5, Martin 2, Bautista 0, Butel 0, Rosales 0

Bicol-LCC Stores (77) – Garcia 19, Buenafe 13, Lalata 12, Lao 6, Alfonso 5, Alday 4, Mondragon 4, Gusi 4, Salinas 4, Ongtengco 2, Manalang 2, Aldave 2, Guerrero 0, Olea 0, Villar 0

Quarterscores: 17-15, 37-37, 62-62, 79-77

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