EXPECT another all-out war in Game 3 of the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) National Finals, with the Pampanga Giant Lanterns hoping to capture the title via a historic sweep and the Bacoor Strikers fighting to stay alive at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor, Cavite.
Led by 2023 MVP awardee Justine Baltazar and Kurt Reyson and handled by Gov. Dennis Pineda, Pampanga swept the first two games 71-58, and 68-65, at home to move closer to the national championship.
Bacoor, however, is determined to get back into contention and live another day especially now that the best-of-three series will be played infront of their own fans and supporters at home.
A win by the Strikers in Saturday’s contest would provide the morale boost for them to force Game 4 next week.
Still, long-time analysts put the North Division champion Giant Lanterns as the overwhelming favorites to clinch their first MPBL national crown.
Baltazar, the unanimous choice as this year’s MVP, is averaging 13 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists in the finals, which saw the Giant Lanterns dominate the boards, 104-79, in the first two games.
Supporting Baltazar are Game 1 hero Reyson, who is averaging 12.5 points, and Game 2 best player Archie Concepcion, who is averaging 10 points.
Other notable players for Pampanga are Encho Serrano, MJ Garcia, John Lloyd Clemente, JB Bahio, and Jayson Apolonio.
South Division champion Bacoor is determined to avert a sweep.
The Strikers will rely on Jhan Nermal and James Kwekuteye, who averaging 11 and 9 points, respectively.
Jhaymo Eguilos is also a big factor with averages of 10 points and 7 rebounds, along with Mark Yee, Jammer Jamito, Chito Jaime and Michael Canete.
Yvan Ludovice and Aaron Jeruta are also hold sway at the backcourt, where the Strikers have forced the Giant Lanterns to make more turnovers, 33-18.
Strikers coach Alex Angeles also said the Strikers need to improve their 3-point shooting, where they only made 14 of 58 attempts against the Giant Lanterns 16 in just 43 tries.
If successful, Pampanga will eclipse Batangas’ 3-1 victory over Muntinlupa in the 2018 MPBL inaugurals, San Juan’s 3-2 triumph over Davao in 2019, Davao’s 3-1 conquest of San Juan in 2020, and Nueva Ecija’s 3-1 romp over Zamboanga in 2022.