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Noynoy Falcasantos insists Cebu not pressured in last dash for MPBL playoffs despite Bicol still in control

Cebu's late first quarter defense eventually led to a free flowing offense to clobber Imus. MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

BINAN--It was a must-watch Saturday night in the MPBL Lakan Season at least for the fans of Bicol and Cebu.

Both teams are the only ones left fighting for the eighth and last playoff spot in the Southern Division, and at least one shocking result can significantly shake things up especially that they played also-ran teams.

The Volcanoes came just close to conceding one as the Quezon City Capitals had a chance to steal the win in the end only that Chris Lalata saved the former's blushes by stealing the ball from Mark Olayon to preserve an 89-87 win.

[Related Story: Bicol escapes QC's upset bid to bolster MPBL playoff chances]

The victory made the Sharks' match against the Imus Bandera later in the night more than a prerequisite to stay alive.

However, early in the first quarter, Imus, which played without Jayjay Helterbrand due to a hamstring injury, stayed in step with Cebu and even took an 18-15 lead with 2:53 remaining in the quarter, leading to queries if the Bicol win put some psychological factors in Cebu's iffy start.

Coach Noynoy Falcasantos, however, reiterated that it was not the case.

"Wala namang pressure [sa amin] kahit nanalo ang Bicol," the former PBA star told Dugout Philippines in insistence.

He then said that the fact that the Sharks have two matches at hand compared to the Volcanoes is the reason why there is no need to be intimidated.

"May four games pa kami," Falcasantos added.

Another reason why it is not the right time for Cebu to panic is that Bicol's last game will be against GenSan next Saturday.

While Falcasantos somehow conceded that Bicol is likely to beat Rizal on Thursday night, a Bicol loss to GenSan two nights later will keep the door open for Cebu to sneak into the Round of 16.

"Isa sa kanila, magiging 16 [wins] lang," he further said.

Interestingly enough, the Warriors still have tough assignments left after playing the Volcanoes, the Makati Skyscrapers on Feb. 6 and the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, who despite already knocked out of playoff contention are still putting up a gallant fight, on Feb. 14. In between is a showdown against the Sarangani Marlins (Feb. 10).

Eventually, Cebu restored order late in the first quarter against Imus and pulled away for a 101-76 win to breathe some life to its playoff chances.

[Related Story: Cebu shuts down Imus to keep MPBL playoff hopes alive]

"Sabi ko sa kanila, 'Kailangan tayong dumepensa. Kung ano'ng ginagawa natin sa practice, yun ang gagawin natin. Ganoon lang ka-simple. Huwag tayong lalayo sa ginagawa natin,'" Falcasantos bared what he told the Sharks during the timeout at the 2:53 mark of the first period.

Although Cebu still has four games left in its regular season schedule, three of them are against tough opponents, Pampanga on Tuesday night, Bataan on Feb. 3, and Batangas City, which also looks to finally seal the seventh seed in the South, on Feb. 13. The other is against Paranaque.

Falcasantos hopes that the defense that turned the tides against Imus will still be there.

"Sa basketball, kung kailangang manalo, kailangan may depensa ka," he concluded.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno