Kyusi@80 eliminates Batang Maynila, sets up Finals clash with Taguig in Metro League 24-under men’s cage tourney

Game Thursday, Jan. 16 ‘20 (Hagonoy Gym, Taguig City)

6:00 p.m. Taguig Generals vs. Kyusi@80

Kyusi@80 bucked a sluggish start and frustrated a determined Batang Maynila side for a 109-104 triumph in their winner-take-all semifinal duel last Tuesday at the Vista Real Classica Gym in Quezon City in the Metro League 24-Under men’s basketball tournament that is backed by the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and has Barangay 143 as presentor.

The win enabled the Mayor Joy Belmonte-backed QC squad to advance to the best-of-three title series against playoffs top seed Taguig which begins Thursday at the Hagonoy Gym.

The Generals, which topped the classification round with a 7-1 record, was first to advance to the Finals, needing just one game to eliminate fourth-ranked Makabagong San Juan 84-75 Friday last week at the San Andres Gym in this tourney which has SMS Global Technologies, Inc. as official livestream and technology partner, Spalding as official ball, Team Rebel Sports as official outfitter, PLDT as official internet service provider and Manila Bulletin as media partner.

Kyusi@80 unleashed a 23-4 run in the second period with combo guard Nathaniel Lopez carrying the scoring load, scoring most of his 19 first half points en route to a tournament-best 32 points.

Lopez bounced back from a letdown in Kyusi@80’s 107-109 double overtime loss in their first semifinal meeting last Tuesday where he fouled out early in the regulation, by shooting the lights out this time & connecting on six of his seven three-point attempts. He also proved to be a thorn on Manila’s offense after recording four steals and two shotblocks.

It was actually  a come-from-behind win by the twice-to-beat Kyusi@80 which trailed Batang Maynila for much of the opening period and by as much as 23-17 in the second frame.

Drick Acosta provided ample support for Kyusi@80 as he wound up with 26 markers, three rebounds, and four steals while Alexander Junsay and Adzhar Udjan posted identical numbers of 10 points and eight boards for the finals-bound QC squad in this 24-under tourney that also has Synergy 88, World Balance, Excellent Noodles and San Miguel Corporation as major sponsors and is also supported by Gerry’s Grill, Summit Water, Alcoplus, Nature’s Spring and Goodfellow.

Batang Manila struggled to find their rhythm in the second half as Kyusi@80 established its biggest lead in the fourth quarter, 106-89, before making a last-ditch effort with a 15-3 wind-up that cut the lead to just five at the final buzzer.

The absence of team captain and leading scorer Rafael Go, who averages 22.3 points and 8.9 rebounds in the tourney, was too much to overcome for Batang Manila as he was slapped with an automatic one-game suspension as a result of a disqualifying foul that sent him off the game in their win last Friday which forged this sudden-death semifinal.

Jenrey Chongpico topscored for Batang Manila with 25 points and five boards in only 17 minutes on the floor while last Friday’s hero Leo James Ingles, who produced 25 markers and 13 rebounds the last Friday, had 20 and six this time but also committed six turnovers.

Two other Batang Maynila starters finished with a double-double each as Arjoa Gatchalian scored 16 points and 12 boards, while Carl Joshua Alaticca had 14 markers and collared 10 rebounds, both their efforts also going down the drain. (JMdJ)

The scores:

Kyusi@80 109 — Lopez 32, Acosta 26, Udjan 10, Junsay 10, Salazar 8, Castillo 8, Moralejo 5, Ybanez 4, Penaga 2, Digno 2, Sabalza 2.

Batang Maynila 104 — Chongpico 25, Ingles 20, Gatchalian 16, Alaticca 14, Lescano 12, Canelas 11, Balbuena 4, Tolentino 2, Salting 0, Ferrer 0.

Quarterscores: 17-21, 54-44. 78-65, 109-104.