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Pampanga escapes late San Juan fightback to take MPBL North Finals opener

Balti Baltazar had another 20-20 game for the Giant Lanterns. MPBL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga--Pampanga built enough cushion to brave through a last gasp from San Juan en route to an 86-82 win in Game 1 of the MPBL North Division Finals on Saturday night at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center.

With the Knights knocking on their doors, huge triples from Archie Concepcion and Arwind Santos midway through the fourth quarter gave the Giant Lanterns a 10-point lead, 74-64, which turned out to be just enough to stay on top in the end despite the Knights' gallant stand.

San Juan eventually trimmed the gap to just three following four straight free throws and even got a chance to tie the game after Adrian Nocum stole the ball from MJ Garcia off a pressure defense.

Marvin Taywan, however, misfired a three-point attempt and Encho Serrano skied high for the rebound even as Pampanga was able to milk the clock before Garcia was finally fouled with 5.5 seconds left.

Garcia converted a split to ice the game even as JB Bahio blocked Taywan's quick three before the final buzzer.

Balti Baltazar led Pampanga, now 1-0 up in the best-of-three series, with 23 points, 20 rebounds, three assists, one block, and two steals.

Bahio added 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, four blocks, and one steal in his best performance so far in his young professional career.

Taywan made 20 points, one rebound, three assists, and one steal, Mike Calisaan contributed 12 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, and Nocum put up 11 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, four steals, and one block for San Juan.

Game 2 is scheduled on Tuesday night at the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.

Due to the NCAA games being played in the afternoon, tip-off is scheduled at 8:30 p.m.

Follow him on X: @IvanSaldajeno

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