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Pampanga rallies back to beat Batangas City in OT thriller at home

Levi Hernandez dropped 32 on the Athletics. MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Batangas City seemed to be on the verge of giving its fans who were heavily hit by the Taal Volcano eruption something to smile about on Thursday night in a crucial MPBL Lakan Season game on the road.

Larry Muyang, however, had other plans.

Muyang scored two crucial baskets, one in the dying moments of the regulation and the other late in overtime, as Pampanga escaped with an 82-79 win over Batangas City at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.

In his first game back in the MPBL following the Letran Knights' successful NCAA title run although as a Giant Lantern this time, Muyang scored a layup with 8.7 seconds left in regulation that eventually forced overtime as they came back from a 20-point Athletics lead to tie the game at 72-all.

Coach Bong Ramos credited the comeback to Pampanga's "surprise" defensive scheme that he thought Batangas City did not see coming.

"Ginamit namin yung isa naming depensa, yung ginagamit namin noong umpisa ng liga. Hindi napansin ng Batangas yun kaya nakahabol kami," said Ramos.

Jeff Viernes actually had a chance to finally seal the Athletics' win, but his fadeaway jumper only hit the rim before time expired.

The Giant Lanterns opened the extra period with five straight points only for the Athletics to respond with a 7-2 run capped by Viernes' equalizing triple for a 79-all count with 21.2 seconds left

But Muyang converted another layup off Genmar Bragais' drop pass to put the Giant Lanterns ahead with 12.4 seconds to go.

Batangas City decided to go for the win in their next offensive, but Rey Suerte was forced to take a tough three-pointer that went off the target.

Muyang actually kept Batangas City in the game after he only made a split with 4.4 seconds left, but with his team already out of timeouts, Viernes had to run the full length of the court only to fire a wild three-pointer that he airballed.

Pampanga's win preserved a career-high 32 points from Levi Hernandez alongside four rebounds, one assist, two steals, and one block.

Juico added 13 points, 12 rebounds, one assist, and one block as the team moved up to 17-9, one game ahead of Bataan for fifth place in the Northern Division and one game behind Bulacan, which won earlier Thursday over Caloocan, for the fourth seed. Muyang finished with nine points, seven rebounds, one assist, and one block in his MPBL return.

Viernes came up with 19 points, five rebounds, seven assists, and two steals for Batangas City, which fell to 14-11, although the team still holds the seventh seed in the Southern Division.

Suerte and Melano each netted 12 markers with the former achieving a double-double with 12 rebounds alongside four assists, four steals, and one block for a solid all-around game.

New signing Jaydee Tungcab made six points, one board, one dime, and one steal in his MPBL debut.

The Scores:

Pampanga 82 - Hernandez 13, Juico 13, Muyang 9, Cruz 8, Maiquez 7, Cervantes 6, Apreku 4, Alberto 2, Fabian 1, Thompson 0.

Batangas City-Tanduay 79 - Viernes 19, Melano 12, Suerte 12, Bragais 11, Tungcab 6, Olivares 5, Sara 5, Grimaldo 4, Santos 3, Eguilos 2, Koga 0.

Quarterscores: 9-22, 29-39, 48-59, 72-72, 82-79.