Flying V survived a testy challenge from Centro Escolar University and hacked out a gritty 65-61 Game 1 victory to draw first blood in their 2017 PBA D-League Foundation Cup semifinals Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
With the Thunder holding a precarious 63-61 lead with 21 seconds left, Gab Banal drew a huge charging foul on the driving Rod Ebondo to halt the Scorpions’ fightback from nine-points down, 59-50, before Jerick Cañada iced the win with two freebies in the final 3.6 ticks.
“I think when it comes to those situations, you really have to assert yourself defensively,” said coach Eric Altamirano. “I think this game really boiled down to the stops. We were able to make the crucial stops, especially the one Gab had on Ebondo. But overall, we had to grind it out since CEU played a really good game.”
Jeron Teng flirted with a triple-double as he tallied 17 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists, while Banal got 12 markers on a 3-of-6 shooting from threes, to go with five boards, and two steals.
Eric Salamat also chimed in 12 points, three rebounds, and three dimes in the conquest, which stretched the Thunder’s winning run to 11 straight games.
Game 2 is on Tuesday, still at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Flying V almost lost the game after Thomas Torres was slapped with a flagrant foul penalty one on Orlan Wamar with 21.0 left, but CEU’s diminutive playmaker uncharacteristically muffed both shots.
Altamirano reiterated that for the Thunder to advance to the next level, they should have their A-game on the defensive end for Game 2.
“We need to do a better job in controlling the rebounds and blocking out their bigs. We just have to continue doing that because we’re gonna need more of that, especially in the second game,” he said.
Rod Ebondo was dominant anew in the glass, scoring 20 points and pulling down 27 rebounds, two boards shy of the record 29 set by Jay-R Taganas in the 2015 Foundation Cup.
Art Aquino added 17 markers and four rebounds in the losing effort for the Scorpions.
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.
Quarters: 14-13, 31-32, 54-46, 65-61.