MANILA, Philippines – The playoff-contending Zark’s-LPU Jawbreakers turned back a dangerous JRU Heavy Bombers squad, 91-81, in the home stretch of the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena, Thursday, March 22.
Already eliminated from playoff contention, the Heavy Bombers played with nothing to lose and posed a serious threat to the Jawbreakers, who were coming into the game at 5-4 in a three-way tie with Gamboa-St. Clare and Wangs-Letran. Ateneo big man Kris Porter went to work early for JRU with his inside-outside offensive game, keeping Zark’s close with just a 3-point lead after the first quarter, 23-20.
The Heavy Bombers kept up their elite play in the second period, even tying the game 33-all off a Jonathan Mendoza jumper. Meanwhile, NCAA MVP CJ Perez and Mike Nzeusseu expectedly paced the Jawbreakers but they just couldn’t break loose. To add to LPU’s woes, MJ Dela Virgen drained two straight long bombs but LPU nevertheless got the last laugh for the quarter after a buzzer-beating triple by Jeff Santos put them up 47-43.
Entering the second half, Ervin Grospe drained a go-ahead mid-range jumper to put the Heavy Bombers up for the first time, 50-49. However, the Jawbreakers finally got the run they were looking for, as Jesper Ayaay and Rhan Yong spearheaded a crucial 17-4 run that suddenly put them way ahead, 66-54.
While JRU still fought back the deficit in the fourth to as close as 4, 70-74, Nzeusseu crushed home two rim-bending dunks while Perez sailed away with a crafty up-and-under move to put away the game for good.
Post-game, Coach Topex Robinson praised the maturity of his boys after getting out of JRU’s momentary 50-49 lead.
“That’s the maturity part of the team,” he said. “I have to bite my lip and let them get out of that hump because what I’m avoiding is to outcoach them. They have to go through those struggles. ‘Pag hinayaan mo silang maglaro, nagagawan naman nila ng paraan.” (“If you let them play, they eventually find ways.”)
Nzeusseu again churned out a double-double for Zark’s, setting team-highs of 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Perez added 16 points, 5 boards, 3 assists and a steal in just 16 minutes of play. On the other end, Jeckster Apinan topscored for JRU with 20 points, 11 coming in the fourth quarter alone, and added 12 boards for the double-double. Dela Virgen took care of things from the perimeter with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4/10 (40%) triples.
Now at 6-4, Zark’s moves up to solo fifth place, just behind the 6-3 Che’lu-SSC Revellers while JRU hits rock bottom at 1-8. In the other game, the top-ranked Akari-Adamson Falcons made quick work of the University of Perpetual Help Altas, 101-83, sending them on the brink of elimination at 3-7.
Zark’s-LPU (91) – Nzeusseu 22, Perez 16, Tansingco 11, Yong 9, Ayaay 7, Marcelino, JV. 5, Marcelino, JV. 4, Ibanez 4, Pretta 3, Santos 3, Marata 2, Serrano 2, Caduyac 2, Baltazar 1
JRU (81) – Apinan 20, Dela Virgen 18, Porter 14, Mendoza 10, Esguerra 5, Grospe 4, Bordon 4, Yu 3, Sawat 2, De Guzman 1
Quarter Scores: 23-20, 47-43, 72-60, 91-81
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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