Games Sunday, Sept. 24 ‘17 (Navotas Sports Complex)

9:00 a.m. Marikina vs. Caloocan

10:30 a.m. Quezon City vs. Valenzuela

12:00 p.m. Navotas vs. San Juan

1:30 p.m. MMDA vs. Mandaluyong

Proving to everyone it is more serious in contending for the championship this time, Las Piñas notched back-to-back wins against separate opponents this past week for a 2-0 start and the solo lead in the South Division of the Metro Basketball Tournament (MBT) seniors competition, a part of the Metro Manila Sports Fest under the auspices of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

The Home Defenders, who placed only 15th out of 18 teams in the 16-and-under tourney last summer, defeated Taguig 84-72 last Sunday at the Makati Coliseum then followed it up with an 87-72 rout of MMDA four days later in the same venue, to move half a game ahead of Mandaluyong (1-0) and Parañaque (1-0) in an auspicious start in the tourney which has “Mobile App ng Bayan” Barangay 143 as co-presentor,  Synergy 88 as main sponsor and Spalding as official ball.

Rey Anthony Peralta scored all of his game-high 14 points in the first three quarters of the game as Las Piñas outscored the Generals in each of those periods resulting in their first win while Edgar Louie Charcos had 16 of his game-high 22 points in the win over the Black Berets, nine of them in the final period where the Home Defenders outscored MMDA 28-12 and broke the game wide open en route to another double-digit win.

The Black Berets, who were coming off a 101-91 decision over Pateros four days earlier, were led in the loss to Las Piñas by Dan Anthony Natividad’s all-around numbers of 20 points, six assists, five rebounds, five steals and two shotblocks.

Meanwhile, Mandaluyong, which routed host Makati 87-67 also last Sunday behind PBA D-League standout Joseph Gabayni, eyes a share of the lead with Las Piñas in the South Division when it takes its turn against the Black Berets this Sunday at the Navotas Sports Complex, capping a rare quadrupleheader in the classification phase of this tourney which also has San Miguel Corporation, World Balance and Higer Bus as major sponsors.

In other games this past week in this 24-and-under tourney that is also backed by Excellent Noodles, Nature’s Spring Water, 1-Pacman Partylist, Hopewell Sales Corp., Gatorade, Star Bread, Frabelle Foods, Regan Industrial Sales, Inc., Glitter.ph, Alcoplus, Primadonna and Archie’s Bespoke Bar + Grill, Navotas and 16-and-under champion Marikina, losing their respective tournament debuts last week, both notched first wins last Tuesday at a jampacked Navotas Sports Complex beating Valenzuela 100-96 and San Juan 66-63, respectively.

Like the BIDA and the Shoelanders, Pateros also broke into the win column last Thursday at the Makati Coliseum to even its slate at 1-1 after an 83-78 victory over Makati.

The Skyscrapers, fourth placers in the 16-and-under tourney, dropped to a disappointing 0-3 slate, staying at the bottom of the South Division.

The tournament format has a single round-robin affair per division for a total of six games per team in the classification phase. The top ranked team in both divisions will advance to the semifinals outright and while the No. 2 teams will have twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals will be 2-vs-7, 3-vs-6 and 4-vs-5 affairs for each division with the winners advancing to the semifinals, the two winners in the semis battling for the division championship in a winner-take-all affair and the division champs figuring in a best-of-3 series for the overall Metro championship.

Aside from the Makati Coliseum and Navotas Sports Complex, other venues for the games are the San Andres Sports Complex, the Hagonoy Sports Complex in Taguig (formerly the CP Tinga Gym), and the Paranaque Sports Complex.

Games are live through the MBT’s Facebook page, Metro Manila Sports Fest, where the league, according MBT Commissioner Pido Jarencio, has already breached more than 300,000 total views in just five gamedays of action.

Livestats links of the games, schedule, team standings and conference stats leaders can be accessed through http://mmsf.web.geniussports.com/ and/or www.mbt.ph. (Fidel Mangonon III)