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Pampanga escapes gritty Bataan to set MPBL North semis date with NE

Archie Concepcion proved to be Pampanga's star again. MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY—Pampanga booked the last spot in the MPBL Northern Division semifinals after taking down Bataan, 66-62, in their playoff first-round rubber match on Friday night at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

The Giant Lanterns prevailed after the Risers' comeback fell short.

Clinging to a 61-51 lead midway into the fourth quarter, Pampanga found itself still in danger of blowing the decider at home as Bataan went on an 11-3 run to cut the lead down to two, 64-62, with 14.8 seconds left.

However, still with a foul to give, the Risers took 11 and a half seconds before Jhong Bondoc hacked Dom Vera with 3.3 ticks left.

The Giant Lanterns burned 1.8 more seconds before Bondoc reached Vera again, and Vera iced the game after going 2-for-2 from the foul line.

Archie Concepcion and Topeng Lagrama each scored 13 points, while Earnest Reyes added 10 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, three blocks, and one steal for Pampanga, which set a second-round date with still unbeaten Nueva Ecija.

Owners of the Philippines' longest winning streak in professional basketball with 23 consecutive victories to start the year, the Rice Vanguards will host the opener of their league quarterfinal series on Monday night at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan.

James Castro put up 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and two steals for Bataan, which pushed Pampanga to the limit during the entire three-game series before bowing out.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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