Chris Bitoon came to Gamboa Coffee Mix-St. Clare’s rescue late in its 87-76 victory over Wangs Basketball-Letran to clinch a spot in the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup Tuesday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
With the Couriers pulling within one, 75-74, in the last 3:46, Bitoon accounted for five of the Coffee Lovers’ decisive 7-0 spurt late to ultimately douse the rally and propel his side onto the next round.
Bitoon finished with 22 points, four assists, and three rebounds as he proved to be the perfect complement for Trevis Jackson, who once again shone with 29 markers, five boards, and three dimes.
Mohammed Pare nabbed a double-double of 12 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks, while Aris Dionisio got 11 markers, 13 boards and five rejections.
“We were win-or-go home in this game. We expected this team to fight and for us to get wins is just a bonus. We’re just glad that our bench really stepped up,” said coach Jinino Manansala.
Gamboa-St. Clare saw what was once a 22-point advantage trimmed down to just one in the final four minutes, but substitute Joshua Fontanilla found creases in Wangs-Letran’s defense before Bitoon stepped on the gas pedal and gave their side the 82-74 edge with 1:53 left to play.
“We’re lucky that Fontanilla stepped up for us. Now, we can prepare for the quarterfinals,” said Manansala.
Gamboa-St. Clare claimed fifth place with its 6-4 card and brought Zark’s-Lyceum to the quarterfinals, while also eliminating Wangs-Letran and Go for Gold from playoff contention.
Bong Quinto led the Couriers (5-5) with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists, while Bonbon Batiller had 23 markers, three boards, three dimes.
GAMBOA COFFEE MIX-ST. CLARE 87 — Jackson 29, Bitoon 22, Pare 12, Dionisio 11, Fontanilla 9, Alcober 0, Hallare 0, Acuno 0, Rubio 0.
WANGS BASKETBALL-LETRAN 76 — Quinto 24, Batiller 23, Ambohot 5, Balanza 5, Calvo 4, Publico 4, Fajarito 3, Gedaria 3, Muyang 3, Taladua 2, Balagasay 0, Mandreza 0, Yu 0.
Quarters: 26-13, 52-35, 71-61, 87-76.