Cagayan Valley outlasted Cebuana Lhuillier, 103-85, in the deciding Game 3 of their semifinal series and advanced to the Finals of the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup on Thursday.
The Rising Suns weathered repeated threats from the Gems as Don Trollano and Abel Galliguez delivered in the clutch one after the other.
Riding the momentum of their 98-93 victory in Game 2, the top seed showed a lot of confidence and poise and it made the difference when the Gems made a run for it down the stretch.
“It took a jolting defeat in Game 1 for the players to realize that we’re not unbeatable. But I’m glad it happened. It was a wake-up call and it brought them back on their feet,” said Cagayan coach Alvin Pua.
It will be the second Finals appearance for the Rising Suns, who will face the second-seed Hapee Fresh Fighters in a best-of-three titular series beginning on Monday.
Cagayan lost to NLEX in the 2012 Foundation Cup Finals.
“Many are expecting us to be in the Finals and we don’t want to disappoint them. It was a solid team effort,” Trollano said.
“We are all focused and ready to play. Our mindset and bodies are ready for the physicality that we may encounter,” offered Galliguez, who made 4 of 7 attempts from beyond the arc.
“We went to Moala [Tautuaa] early and he passes out to the open shooters. When the shooters make their shots Moala plays really good inside,” he added.
Tautuaa finished with a game-high 22 points for the for the Rising Suns, who took the lead for good on Michael Mabulac’s tie-breaking layup to start the second quarter.
Adrian Celeda contributed 16 points while Trollano and Galliguez had 14 apiece and combined for 6 of 10 shooting from 3-point range.
It was a tough loss for the Gems, who kept the game close and exciting in the fourth quarter but they didn’t have the finishing kick to get away with another stunner.
Cebuana fell behind by 10 midway in the third quarter and was down 47-58 when Gwayne Capacio hit a tough 3-point shot to open the second half.
But the Gems hung on and pull within 70-73 on two free throws by Allan Mangahas to open the fourth. But the Rising Suns quickly responded with a 7-0 run and Gems never threatened again.
Kevin Ferrer scored 18 points and Norberto Torres added 15 and 13 assists for the Gems, who were outscored, 17-30, in the fourth quarter.
Cagayan made 48 percent of its attempt from the field including 13 of 27 shooting from 3-point range. In contrast, Cebuana shot 42 percent and 5 of 23 from beyond the arc. The Gems made matters worse by committing 18 turnovers that netted the Gems 19 points.
Cagayan Valley 103 – Tautuaa 22, Celeda 16, Trollano 14, Galliguez 14, Austria 10, Melano 8, Salamat 7, Mabulac 4, Capacio 3, Dilay 2, Tayongtong 2, Flores 1, Olayon 0, Santos 0.
Cebuana Lhuillier 85 – Ferrer 18, Torres 15, Enciso 14, Mangahas 12, J. Mangahas 10, Zamar 7, Lopez 3, Acibar 2, Villahermosa 2, Sarangay 2, Vosotros 0, Bautista 0.
Quarters: 25-25; 55-47; 73-68; 103-85