MALOLOS — In just three play dates this new year, the MPBL Datu Cup has witnessed lowly-ranked teams pull off huge upset wins against heavily-favored squads.
Basilan became the latest team to do such.
The Steel picked up its first back-to-back wins in the tournament after a stunning 94-89 triumph over inaugural staging champion Batangas City Athletics-Tanduay Saturday night at the Bulacan Capitol Gymnasium here.
Macky Acosta finished with 21 points to lead the hot-shooting Steel to their sixth win in 18 games.
The Steel shot a steady 43-percent from beyond the arc, making 13 of 30 shots. Curiously, their rivals shot even better, hitting 46-percent (12-of-26). Both teams combined for 25 three-point shots made, a league record.
But Basilan’s determination to complete an upset were very much evident when they rallied from 15 points down, 45-30. They were trailing most of the way and were only to grab the lead in the 5:42 mark of the third period on a three-point basket made by Jhaps Bautista.
Bautista, one of the newest additions in the Steel line up, added 15 points, including a get-away move that shoved his squad to an 88-87 lead with still 1:52 left.
Both teams battled tooth and nail until the final seconds of the game.
Acosta’s two free throws in the last 17 seconds and a big stop by Basilan in Batangas’ last offensive trip practically sealed the win for the Steel, who remained at 11th spot of the southern division, but drew closer from the other teams jostling for position in the eighth spot.
“I told my team during the year that we’re gonna have one last push,” said Basilan coach Gerson Cabiltes. “I told them every game going to the playoffs counts. We don’t care if malakas ang kalaban or mahina, as long as we play hard. Ang hinahabol lang namin around eight wins kasi yung mga hinahabol namin sa seventh or eighth spots, nasa eight wins pa lang rin naman sila.”