BALANGA, Bataan—Belying their low ranking in the off-season, the Navotas Clutch put the clamps on the Caloocan Supremos, 59-55, and grabbed the solo lead in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup North Division at the Bataan People’s Center here.
The hometown Risers, meanwhile, pounded the boards and played more cohesively to topple inaugural champion Batangas City Athletics, 81-67, in the wildly applauded second game.
Their second straight win in as many starts elated new Clutch coach Richie Ticzon.
“Nakatsamba, breaks of the game,” said Ticzon, who also steered the Clutch to an 83-75 conquest of the Pasay Voyagers on June 16.
Though he believes in the capability of his players, majority of whom are products of the UAAP and NCAA, Ticzon said he feels they can’t measure up with the other powerhouse teams of the regional league.
“Definitely malayo kami,” said Ticzon, rattling off Manila, Bataan, Batangas, San Juan and Makati as among the teams to contend with.
But he believes that as long as his players follow their system they will be no pushovers, especially if they work on their perceived flaws such as turnovers.
The tight defense put up by both teams resulted in a league record for lowest combined scores (114), lowest winning score (59), and lowest losing output (55).
Veteran Levi Hernandez led the Clutch with 15 points and pulled down 7 rebounds, but committed 7 turnovers.
The Supremos, who dropped to 1-1, drew 13 points from JR Cawaling.
In the other game, the Risers drew inspiration from the hometown crowd to down depleted the Anta Rajah Cup titlists and level their win-loss record at 1-1.
Flaunting their deep roster, all but two of the 14 players used by Risers coach Jojo Lastimosa scored with John Raymundo (13 points), Vince Tolentino (12 points and 10 rebounds), Robby Celiz and Garry David (11 points each) tallying double digits.
According to Lastimosa, one of the PBA’s 25 greatest players, he never experienced such strong a backing of the crowd since his Purefoods days.
The Athletics of coach Mac Tan fell to 1-1 as they felt the absence of injured starts Val Acuna and Jhaymo Equilos and Bong Quinto, who is committed to play for the Letran Knights in the NCAA.