By: Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
IN A CRUCIAL stretch for the playoffs race, the Iloilo United Royals pulled out a much-needed win against Bulacan Kuyas, 83-73, in the 2019 MPBL Lakan Cup.
Cedric De Joya’s insertion in the starting five bolstered coach Eric Gonzales’ run-and-gun game for Iloilo, as the “Kamikaze Kid” ran the break and dished out open looks.
The unorthodox lineup shuffling of Gonzales worked against Bulacan, as Iloilo bench outscored Bulacan by a wide margin, 51 to 28.
Veteran center Eric Rodriguez torched Bulacan with 10 points, including a three-pointer, while shooting 57 percent from the field.
The game turned into a slugfest in the opening half, as both traded baskets in the shaded area with both frontcourts showing aggression in the paint.
As the second half started, Iloilo got into a rhythm as Richard Escoto and Al Francis Tamsi found their stroke, scoring 14 and 11 points respectively.
Ball movement and late-game execution, a weakness in the previous game, was much improved as Iloilo won comfortably.
Coach Gonzales expressed his frustration with his team’s stagnant ball movement in previous games and was pleased with his squad responding with 21 assists.
Iloilo also improved their free-throw shooting percentage to 76%, missing only five of their 21 attempts from the charity stripe.
With the win, the United Royals improved to 5-4 and is currently in sixth place in the South Division.