MANILA, Philippines -- Reigning South king Davao Occidental-Cocolife shrugged off a slow start, overpowering Bicol-LCC Stores, 77-71, to gain the upper hand in the best-of-three quarterfinals of the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season, Monday at the Rizal Memorial Colleges Gym in Davao City.
Bicol was in control for most of the first half, until the Tigers ramped up their intensity in the third quarter. The home team outscored the visitors, 28-19, to turn a 27-36 deficit into a 55-53 advantage heading into the final period.
Joseph Terso's triple at the 1:38 mark of the payoff period gave the Tigers a seven-point lead, 74-67, but Bicol's Jerome Garcia retaliated with quick four points to trim the deficit to just three, 74-71, with 24.8 ticks left.
Yvan Ludovice iced the game for Davao, however, making three free throws while the Volcanoes grew cold on the other end.
"It is playoff basketball. We have to be ready for that kind of situation where our opponent comes out aggressive. We were able to adjust in the second half and good thing we came out with the win," said Davao coach Don Dulay.
Mark Yee spearheaded the Tigers with 20 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists, while Eman Calo contributed 18 markers off the bench.
Billy Ray Robles was the energizer in the second half, pouring in all of his 11 points to go with nine boards, three blocks, two assists, and a steal.
Garcia got 15 points for the Volcanoes while Chris Lalata added 12 markers in a losing cause.
Ronjay Buenafe only had 10 points on a poor 3-of-12 shooting from the field.
The Tigers aim to end the series on February 21, Friday, at the Batangas City Coliseum.
Davao Occidental-Cocolife 77 - Yee 20, Calo 18, Robles 11, Ludovice 10, Mocon 6, Custodio 5, Saldua 4, Terso 3, Raymundo 0, Balagtas 0.
Bicol-LCC Stores 71 - Garcia 15, Lalata 12, Alday 11, Buenafe 10, Aldave 8, Guerrero 4, Ongteco 4, Lao 3, Mondragon 3, Manalang 1, Gusi 0, Salinas 0.
Quarters cores: 14-20, 27-36, 55-53, 77-71.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).