ANGELES CITY — It’s hard to motivate a team that is already out of the running for the playoffs, but the Pampanga Lanterns are just as determined to win one for their home crowd.
The Lanterns did just that as they won the first of the last two games at home following a 91-76 triumph over the Gerald Anderson-less Marikina Shoemasters in the MPB Datu Cup.
Their fate had been sealed as early as last week, but the Lanterns are poised not to let their fans down once the games returned at the Angeles University Foundation Arena on Tuesday night and they made sure they’ll bring their A-game.
Three players scored 20 points or more for the Lanterns led by the high-scoring Michael Juico, who tallied 23 markers on a steady 11-of-14 shooting from the field.
Juico got plenty of help from Juneric Baloria, who tallied 21 markers on top of seven boards.
Allen Enriquez, returning after a bout with a knee injury, came through with his most productive game of the season. He ended up with a double-double showing of 20 points and 12 boards as Pampanga improved its win-loss record to 10-14.
Even if Pampanga wins its next game against Zamboanga-Family’s Brand Sardines, the ADG Construction-backed squad will not be able to advance to the top eight
But it was frontliner Allen Enriquez who stepped up big for the Lanterns as he ended up with a double-double performance of 20 points and 12 rebounds.
They are currently carrying a 10-14 record and has a chance to tie eighth placer Caloocan in the northern division of this tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
But by virtue of the win over the other rule, Caloocan will secure the last playoff berth and the best Pampanga could end up is No. 9. Instead, the Lanterns could start with their rebuilding plans and they have just began by signing up point guard Mark Cruz for next season.