MANILA, Philippines – Coming off a dismal performance in Game 1, Manila-Frontrow's Chris Bitoon made sure to make his presence felt in Game 2 of their quarterfinals series against Pasig-Sta. Lucia in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan season.
Bitoon averaged 12.6 points during the elimination round, but scored just 2 points on 1-of-7 shooting in Game 1.
After shooting poorly in the series opener, the guard expected that Pasig's defense on him will loosen up, and focus instead on his teammates who had fine performances in Game 1.
"Noong Game 1 talaga, mainit yung iba kong kakampi kaya di rin ako gaano naka-attempt," said the 24-year-old Bitoon. "This game expected ko na magcla-clog sila sa loob so na-open ako sa labas."
Pasig played just as Bitoon expected, and he made them pay by putting up 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting. He nailed 3 3-pointers and added 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and a steal to his line.
"Nag-extra practice talaga ako after noong Game 1," Bitoon explained. "Nag-shooting talaga ako, kasi alam kong sina Kuya Carlo (Lastimosa), 'yung mga big men namin ang babantayan nila."
"Naging ready lang ako tuwing mabibigyan ng bola," he added.
The Stars went on to win the game, 82-80, completing a sweep of the Realtors at the Malolos Sports and Convention Center on Saturday.
However, Bitoon nearly went from hero to zero in the end game.
With Manila clinging to a 2-point lead with 17 seconds left, Bitoon was intentionally fouled but missed both of his free throws, giving Pasig a chance.
But Jeric Teng and Argel Mendoza both missed their final attempts, bailing out Bitoon and the Stars.
Manila head coach Tino Pinat was unsurprised with Bitoon's performance.
"Buti naka-bounce back si Chris. Expected ko naman sa kanya na magdeliver palagi," he said.
In the other quarterfinals match, three-seed Makati-Super Crunch overcame its homecourt woes to book a spot in the semis after topping Bulacan, 86-78.
The Stars will face Makati-Super Crunch in the best-of-three semis.
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