Top seeds Flying V Thunder squandered a nine-point edge, but got the job done on the defensive end to eke out the tight, 65-61 Game One win over the Centro Escolar University Scorpions and gain a head start in their best-of-three series, Thursday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
With the Thunder precariously holding on to a 63-61 advantage with 21.0 ticks left, Gab Banal got in Rod Ebondo’s way and drew a charging foul to halt the Scorpions’ rampage, giving his crew some relief as Jerick Cañada sealed the game with two freebies in the last 3.6 seconds.
“I think pagdating sa mga ganoong situations, you really have to assert yourself defensively,” said Flying V head coach Eric Altamirano. “And I think this game really boiled down to the stops. We were able to make the crucial stops, lalo na yung kay Gab on Ebondo.”
Flying V have put one foot through the door of the championship series, as another victory on Tuesday will propel them to the Finals in only their maiden conference in the league.
Jeron Teng missed out on another triple-double, racking 17 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists in the win.
Banal shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc to wound up with 12 markers, five boards, and two steals, while Eric Salamat also had 12 points, three rebounds, and three dimes in the conquest.
Thomas Torres almost gave the win away to the Scorpions after he was whistled for a flagrant foul penalty one, but Orlan Wamar botched both of his freebies, which could have tied the game in the final 21.0 seconds.
Rod Ebondo led the way for CEU with 20 points and 27 rebounds, two boards away from tying the PBA D-League record of 29 set by Jay-R Taganas in the 2015 Foundation Cup.
Art Aquino also chipped in 17 markers and four rebounds in the loss
Flying V 65 – Teng 17, Banal 12, Salamat 12, Torres 6, Austria 5, Dionisio 4, Thiele 3, Cañada 2, Paredes 2, Tampus 2, Koga 0.
CEU 61 – Ebondo 20, Aquino 17, Wamar 9, Cruz 8, Jeruta 6, Casiño 1, Fuentes 0, Guinitaran 0, Intic 0.
Quarterscores: 14-13, 31-32, 54-46, 65-61.