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Michael Juico shrugged off an injury scare to power Basilan Jumbo Plastic Medical Depot past Sta. Lucia Pasig Realtors, 77-72 and reach the MPBL Invitational Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 22.

Juico hurt his knee in the third quarter but managed to still finish the game and put up a game-high 23 points that went with five rebounds and five assists.

“So far ngayon okay kasi mataas pa yung adrenaline ko, tingnan natin mamaya. Wala nang reason dito kailangan maglaro ng Finals kahit masakit o hindi, tuloy pa rin kami,” said Juico after the game.

Basilan however had to fend off a furious second half rally from the Realtors led by star guard Fran Yu who anchored his team’s comeback bid from 18-points down in the first half.

Sta. Lucia managed to cut the lead down to single digits in the final frame but Basilan kept them at bay behind timely hits from Juico and forward Jay Collado who finished with 17 points.

Basilan head coach Jerson Cabiltes also turned emotional after his hastily built team made it to the Finals.

“Everything, ito nga yung pag buo namin ng lineup in this Invitational talagang last-minute changes sa amin kasi nga half of my team departed from the last league,”

Collado anchored the attack for Basilan in the second canto, scoring nine of his total during an 18-5 rally to build an 48-32 lead with 59 second left before the halftime break.

Pasig refused to go down without a fight as it tried to regain its foothold behind the efforts of Yu in the third frame. Yu paced the Realtors with 22 points off the bench, nine during the third quarter run.

Encho Serrano contributed 14 markers, six dimes and three assists for Basilan, which now awaits the winner of the semifinals game between Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards and Imus Bandera.

Source: Manila Bulletin (