ANGELES CITY — Pampanga turned to local hero Michael Juico to outlast bitter rival Muntinlupa, 87-80, in the MPBL Datu Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Arena here.
Juico had back-to-back lay-ups that pumped up the home team before Juneric Baloria and Levy Hernandez made key contributions down the stretch, allowing Pampanga to notch its eighth win in 20 games and kept its hopes alive for a playoff berth.
With the win, the Lanterns, backed by ADG Construction, forged a tie for eighth to ninth places with Mandaluyong, which defeated Cebu, 72-63, earlier.
The former GlobalPort Batang Pier guard had an impressive showing, coming away with a double-double performance and did a little bit of everything.
He finished with 26 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out seven assists and stole the ball four times.
Juico also got a big help from the other big-time scorers in Levy Hernandez and Juneric Baloria.
Hernandez contributed 17 markers on top of six boards while Baloria had 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. He and Juico combined for eight of the 13 steals completed by Pampanga, which outworked Muntinlupa on the hustle charts.
The Lanterns also had eight blocks compared to only one by Muntinlupa, which absorbed its seventh loss in 19 games, but kept its hold of the solo second spot in the southern division of this tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
Holding a shaky 75-73 lead, Juico presided in offense for Pampanga. His back-to-back lay ups, challenging the entire frontliners of Muntinlupa, gave his team some breathing room heading to the critical stage of the match.
Earlier, Mandaluyong snapped a four-game losing skid by venting its ire on Cebu.
Jonathan Boholano triggered a 13-0 run by the El Tigre to close out the second period and put his squad ahead, 44-33, at half time. Since then, Mandaluyong was never seriously threatened.
Gian Abrigo led the way for Mandaluyong with 18 markers followed by Alex Torres, who had 14. Janus Lozada contributed 13 while Boholano had nine. Antonio Bonsubre dominated on the rebounding department, grabbing 14 boards for Mandaluyong.