NCR nips Calabarzon, Central Visayas blasts Western Visayas in hoops semis

DUMAGUETE City, Philippines -- National Capital Region endured a late meltdown to nip resilient Calabarzon, 73-72, in a tense semifinals encounter at the jampacked Lamberto Macias Sports Center here.

Anchored on Renzo Subido's explosive performance, the Big City cagers outlasted their favored Region IV-A counterparts and banked on a huge cushion they built midway through the fourth to fend off their opponent's late surge.

Calabarzon raced to a 13-6 edge as big man Arvin Tolentino sizzled early. But NCR bounced back mightily with a 14-0 run, with Subido nailing a pair of treys and a breakaway layup in that stretch.

Both teams traded runs in the next two quarters before a crippling run spiked by Enzo Navarro and Michael Calisaan allowed San Sebastian-backed NCR to post a 71-60 bubble with five minutes remaining.

But just when everyone thought that NCR would cruise to the finals, Calabarzon dropped one last rally, scoring 13 of the next 15 points before ultimately falling short.

"I told my boys to lock down on defense," Mercado said on what carried his team during the final moments. "Thankfully, we won."

Subido finished with 18 points for NCR while Navarro chipped in with 15 markers.

On the other hand, Tolentino and Ranbill Tongco had 14 points apiece for San Beda-powered Calabarzon.

In the second game, Central Visayas used a quick start to dispatch old rival Western Visayas, 76-38, and arrange a title duel with NCR.

The Region VII bets zoomed to an 11-0 lead and leaned on big man Dawn Ochea to punish Region VI's front line.

Ochea finished with 16 points to lead Cebu, which is aching to get back at the NCR crew that eliminated them in the quarterfinals in 2012.

"This is it," said Central Visayas coach Rommel Rasmo. "We've trained a year for this. We are ready to challenge them for the crown." -