Tanduay claimed the last semifinal slot in the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup, outlasting AMA Online Education, 80-76, Thursday in their quarterfinal tiff at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Mark Cruz once again shone for the Rhum Masters, topping his side with 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while Jerwin Gaco chipped in 16 markers and eight boards.
Tanduay arranged a best-of-3 semifinals showdown with top seed Cignal-San Beda to start on Tuesday.
“You have to give it to AMA. They refused to lose with their season on the line, but in the end, my boys managed to squeeze it out and we gutted out all of the challenges and rallies they mounted,” said coach Lawrence Chongson. “What’s important is we won the game.”
Tanduay took control early, starting with a 21-6 salvo behind the hot shooting of Cruz and Gaco in the first quarter.
The Titans, however, slowly chipped away the lead and ultimately knotted the score at 74 thanks to a Von Tambeling trey with 5:31 to play that set up the frantic finish.
Bong Quinto still left the game wide open in the final minute, missing two crucial freebies to leave the score 79-76.
However, AMA failed to capitalize on the opportunity as Jason Riley stepped out of bounds and Mario Bonleon rushed a three in the final eight seconds.
New recruit Tambeling led the Titans with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Riley had 12 markers, three boards, and two assists in the loss.
Jeron Teng struggled mightily in the game as he was saddled in foul trouble and shot a woeful 1-of-15 clip from the field. He finished with a conference-low six points, six rebounds, and six assists.
TANDUAY 80 – Cruz 23, Gaco 16, Eguilos 9, Quinto 9, Sanga 6, Varilla 5, Alvarez 4, Santos 4, Palma 2, Villamor 2, Cenal 0, Stevens 0.
AMA 76 – Tambeling 27, Riley 12, Bonleon 9, Taganas 7, Teng 6, Olayon 6, Arambulo 4, Alabanza 3, Bragais 2, Barua 0, Macaranas 0.
Quarters: 25-16, 46-39, 68-62, 80-76.