The 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup moves on to the home stretch with two more playoff preview matches at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao on Tuesday, March 20.
First Game: Marinerong Pilipino vs Gamboa-St. Clare
The first contest was a titanic clash between Marinerong Pilipino and Gamboa-St. Clare, where the smooth-sailing Skippers barged right through the Coffee Lovers, 99-83, for a guaranteed playoff spot.
Through the sweet shooting of Billy Ray Robles, Alvin Pasaol and Mike Ayonayon, the Skippers got out to an early 20-13 lead. Then Marinero’s depth – pun intended – began to show as their bench unit chipped in for another 9-1 run, ending the quarter with a comfortable 31-18 advantage.
Robles continued to spit fire in the second period while Gamboa’s usual scorers Aris Dionisio and Trevis Jackson got blanked. As a result, the Skippers’ lead grew to 24 by halftime, 56-32. Dionisio, Jackson and Chris Bitoon tried their best after intermission – combining for 33 second half points – but ultimately failed to make a considerable comeback. While the Coffee Lovers still lost by 17, they did manage to somewhat rise from a huge 30-point lead by the Skippers.
Robles led the balanced attack by the Skipper fleet with a game-high 19 points, while Pasaol followed with 12 points and 9 rebounds. Tolentino and Ayonayon scored 11 apiece while 9 other players tallied at least 3 markers. Meanwhile, only 9 total players got on the board for Gamboa, with Dionisio’s 17 leading the pack.
With Gamboa downed to 5-4 for the conference, they now share a tie with Zark’s-LPU for the final playoff spot. The Coffee Lovers currently hold the tiebreaker after their 107-106 overtime win against the Jawbreakers.
Second Game: CEU vs Wangs-Letran
For the second crucial match of the afternoon, the top-ranked Centro Escolar University (CEU) Scorpions delivered a stinging 79-75 defeat to the contending Wangs-Letran Couriers.
The Scorpions showed no ill effects from the loss of star center Rod Ebondo in the first quarter, as they instead resorted to perimeter shots to leave Jeff Napa’s boys in the dust, 23-8, after a 12-0 run.
After missing his last 13 triples over the last two games, Orlan Wamar finally found his lost touch when his team needed it, as he went on a personal 9-2 run off three straight triples to pile on the Couriers by 17, 36-19. Oliver Arim also stepped up, scoring 11 points in the first half while holding star Courier Bong Quinto to 3 points on a horrendous 1/11 (9%) shooting clip. At halftime, CEU was still up big, 45-32.
Unfazed by a forgettable first half, Quinto and Calvo got back to leading Letran and managed to cut the CEU lead down to 6, 51-45, off a 13-4 run. However, Wamar sank rally-stopping triples every time the Couriers tried to completely erase their deficit. Still, Wangs pushed the tempo and managed to tie the game 59-all at the end of the third thanks to the streaking Jerrick Balanza. Unfortunately for Letran, Balanza would also go down with an apparent injury right after he tied the game.
Wamar continued dousing the Courier’s fire entering the fourth, as he sank yet another triple plus the foul to put the Scorpions up 6, 69-63. However, Wangs launched a crucial 6-1 run to pull within one, 69-70. Arim then complained too much to the referees after fouling a driving Quinto, earning him a technical foul. As a result, Calvo sank the additional free-throw while Quinto converted the go-ahead foul shots, 72-70, for the first lead since Letran opened 2-0. Arim did repay for his mistake by nailing two game-tying charities, but Balanza answered at the other end with a clutch trey for the 75-72 Wangs lead. Not to be outdone, Wamar also pulled up and sank a very tough and contested triple to again lock up the game at 75.
After the timeout with 18 seconds remaining, the Scorpions held the ball for the last shot. Just how they drew it up, they rotated the ball until Keanu Caballero found a wide-open Judel Fuentes who sank his only triple of the night for the 78-75 lead. With 3 ticks left in regulation, Wangs had a chance to send the game to overtime, but Quinto committed his final error of the night as he flung a cross-court pass straight to the coaches’ bench. Wamar sank one last free-throw off the penalty to seal the win.
Thanks to 8/18 (44%) shooting from downtown, Wamar led all scorers with a game-high 26 points. Arim and Ehsan Veron each followed up with 13 apiece. For the Couriers, Balanza had himself a game with 25 points on 10/14 (71%) shooting, but ultimately fell short. Quinto added a double-double of 16 markers and 14 rebounds, but he only shot 4/21 (19%) from the field and had a game-high 6 turnovers, including the one that cost them the game.
Now also at 5-4, Letran suddenly finds themselves outside the playoffs looking in, since fellow 5-4 teams Gamboa and Zark’s both hold the tiebreaker over the Couriers. Meanwhile, CEU at 8-2 is just one win away from an outright, twice-to-beat semifinals berth.
Marinerong Pilipino (99): Robles 19, Pasaol 12, Tolentino 11, Ayonayon 11, Banal 9, Ebona 6, Babilonia 6, Terso 5, Inigo 5, Subido 4, Tratter 4, Lopez 4, Toth 3, Brill 0
Gamboa-St. Clare (83): Dionisio 17, Jackson 13, Pare 13, Bitoon 13, Fontanilla 7, Hallare 6, Rubio 6, Rebugio 4, Acuno 4, Alcober 0
Quarter Scores: 31-18, 56-32, 80-55, 99-83
CEU (79): Wamar 26, Arim 13, Veron 13, Manlangit 7, Guinitaran 6, Caballero 5, Fuentes 5, Cruz 4, Uri 0, Opiso 0, Chan 0, Aquino 0, Saber 0
Wangs-Letran (75): Balanza 25, Quinto 16, Muyang 13, Calvo 9, Fajarito 4, Ambohot 4, Publico 4, Taladua 0, Balagasay 0, Yu 0, Mandreza 0, Batiller 0
Quarter Scores: 26-12, 45-32, 59-59, 79-75
Standings (as of March 20, 2018)
^Marinerong Pilipino 7-2
Gamboa-St. Clare 5-4
Go For Gold-CSB 4-6
^ – clinched playoffs
* – eliminated from contention
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