Pampanga clinches MPBL playoff berth with Rizal’s rout

MANILA — Pampanga formally barged its way to the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League playoffs after a 90-70 rout of Rizal at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City on Thursday night.

The Giant Lanterns turned the tides in the second quarter, outscoring the Crusaders, 24-9, to turn a 15-18 deficit after the first quarter to a 39-27 lead at halftime.

Pampanga even stretched its lead to as high as 23 in the third quarter before keeping Rizal at bay in the end.

With the win, the Giant Lanterns moved to a tie with the Bulacan Kuyas for the fourth seed in the Northern Division at 18-9, although the latter holds the tie-breaker due to its 76-69 win in their match-up.

But while a potential first round meeting between Pampanga and Bulacan is looming, Coach Bong Ramos said he is fine with whoever the former will eventually face in the playoffs.

Sakin, kahit sino ang makalaban namin ang importante ay gawin namin yung part namin (For me, whoever our opponent is, we should do our part),” said Ramos.

Michael Juico led the Giant Lanterns with 18 points on 5-of-8 shooting, eight rebounds, and two assists.

Levi Hernandez added 14 points, one rebound, and one assist.

Mark Cruz posted a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists with two steals.

Kelvin Gregorio made 21 markers, eight boards, and two dimes for the Crusaders, who fell to 4-21.  Ivan Stewart Saldajeno /PNA –