MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Air Force Jet Spikers broke through at the 2023 Spikers’ Turf Open Conference in a big way after downing the feisty NU-Archipelago Builders off a late fifth-set pullaway, 25-21, 30-28, 20-25, 17-25, 15-4, at the Paco Arena on Sunday, February 5.
Rodolfo Labrador led the two-hour marathon with 20 points, all off attacks, as Jessie Lopez steered the offense with 25 excellent sets.
Edwin Tolentino and Ranran Abdilla added 13 and 12 points, respectively, as the Air Force escaped the cellar with a 1-2 record.
Mac Bandola, on the other hand, saw his 31-point effort – the top scoring output so far in the conference – go down the drain after the fifth-set collapse that sent the defending champions down to a 0-3 slate.
Edgar Floresca tallied 30 excellent sets – also a conference-best – for NU’s Team B, while Leo Ordiales added 15 points off 9 attacks, 4 blocks, and 2 aces.
In the first game, D’ Navigators Iloilo rose to solo first place in the early stages of the tournament with a four-set win over the VNS Griffins, 23-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-23, for a 3-0 record.
Five Iloilo players breached double-digit scoring in the win, led by 17 points from captain Jerome Cordez, and made possible with 28 excellent sets from John Michael Apolinario.
Russel Fronda scored 15 in the loss that sent VNS down to a 1-2 slate, while Jan Mangulabnan exerted an admirable playmaking effort with 28 excellent sets.
Iloilo can make it four wins in a row as it kicks off the conference’s first triple-header on Sunday, February 12, 12:30 pm, against the Philippine Army Troopers, while VNS and NU both aim to bounce back at the 3 pm slot.
The Air Force, meanwhile, will return earlier than the rest as the Marck Espejo-led Cignal HD Spikers await on Friday, February 10, 5:30 pm. – Rappler.com
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