Pampanga swept its way past Bacoor, 82-77, in Game 3 to win the national title of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) fifth season on Saturday at the Strike Gymnasium in Bacoor, Cavite.
Mabalacat pride Justine Baltazar and Encho Serrano carried the fight for the Giant Lanterns with the duo fueling an 8-1 run that gave Pampanga a 78-70 lead with 50 seconds left to play.
The Strikers retaliated with a 7-4 run of their own but Pampanga held on to complete the series sweep and cut short their best-of-five affair. The Giant Lanterns cruised to a 71-58 win in the series opener before escaping Bacoor in Game 2, 68-65, to take a commanding 2-0 series lead.
The win allowed Pampanga to put the cherry on top of a dominant MPBL run, which saw the Giant Lanterns top the elimination round with a 26-2 win-loss record before sweeping Marikina and Caloocan in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. They then repeated the same feat against San Juan in the North Division Finals.
Serrano poured in 24 points while Baltazar churned out a double-double effort of 11 markers and 19 boards laced with five assists, three steals, and one block despite playing under the weather.
The Lanterns’ roster also featured PBA veteran Arwind Santos and Letran’s Kurt Reyson.
Pampanga, which became the first team to complete a sweep in the national championship round, is the fifth squad to reign supreme after Batangas in 2018, San Juan in 2019, Davao in 2020, and Nueva Ecija in 2022.
—Bea Micaller/JMB, GMA Integrated News