PASIG CITY – The race for the coveted twice-to-beat advantage in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup playoffs just got more interesting as Tanduay Rhum and QRS JAM Liner-UP hacked out separate victories Thursday (February 25) at the Ynares Sports Arena. The Rhum Masters (5-2) maintained their one-game lead over the Maroons (4-3) for Fourth Place with a game left on their respective schedules.
Tanduay eked out the win over Banco de Oro-NU, 83-81. QRS JAM Liners disposed of Wang’s Basketball, 80-69.
Playing with a mission, Tanduay raced to a 59-32 lead at halftime behind the torrid shooting of Ryan Wetherell and Val Acuna. The second half was a totally different story.
The Bulldogs went on a furious rally as Mohammad Salim, Alfred Aroga and Dave Wilson Yu woke up from their listless first half performance. Suddenly, the once 29-point Tanduay lead was down to two with 18 seconds left on Aroga’s free throw split, 83-81.
The Rhum Masters then made a critical turnover as Jeoffrey Javillonar issued an errant pass to a waiting Pari Llagas but BDO failed to capitalize as J-Jay Alejandro sent the ball out of bounds with three seconds to play. Still, BDO had another chance to salvage the game with Alejandro stealing the inbound and feeding an open Matt Salem but the potential game-winner bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“I warned them against being complacent during our halftime huddle,” said Coach Lawrence Chongson. “This game reminds us to always be on our toes, no lead is safe and do not take any opponent lightly.”
Val Acuna paced the Rhum Masters with 14 points. Reden Celda, a former NU Bulldog, was next with 11 points and six rebounds as Tanduay stretched its winning streak to five games after losing their first two assignments.
Alejandro was the high man for BDO with 19 points. Aroga had a double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds while Salim had all his 16 points in the second half.
In the first game, QRS JAM Liner had a relatively easier road to the win Wang’s. The Maroons used an 11-4 run to close out the first half and never looked back, 39-33.
Veteran big men Raymond Aguilar and Raul Soyud frolicked against the smaller Wang’s frontline as the game slowly began to turn into a blowout. The Maroons tasted their biggest lead on a Michole Sorela basket in the third canto, 60-47.
“Like what I said before, we have to play defense and take good shots,” said team consultant Joe Ward. “If you notice, it’s those teams in the PBA who play defense that win the championships.”
Soyud earned Best Player honors with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Aguilar was equally impressive with 16 points and 18 rebounds.
Coach Ward, who is originally from Arizona, is optimistic his team will make the top four. “After San Miguel won four straight games, nothing is impossible,” he said with a chuckle.
James Mangahas tried his best to rally Wang’s with 13 of his 17 points in the second half on top of six rebounds. Gwyne Capacio followed with 14 points and seven rebounds but their efforts were not enough to prevent Wang’s from absorbing their fifth straight defeat and possible elimination from the playoffs.
Tanduay will try to formalize their entry into the top four when they play Phoenix Petroleum-FEU this Monday (February 29) at the San Juan Arena starting at 4:00 PM. The first game at 2:00 PM will have league-leader CafeFrance-CEU battling AMA Online Education.
How They Scored:
QRS JAM LINER-UP (80) – Soyud 21, Aguilar 16, Alolino 13, Ferrer 10, Baloria 10, Lim 8, Sorela 2, Dario 0, Batino 0, Neypes 0.
WANG’S BASKETBALL (69) – Mangahas 17, Capacio 14, Bautista 10, Ilad 7, Ragasa 7, Jo. Montemayor 4, Publico 4, Acosta 2, Tayongtong 2, Romero 2, Cabahug 0, Tumalip 0.
Period Scores: 16-16, 39-33, 62-52, 80-69.
TANDUAY RHUM (83) – Acuna 14, Celda 11, Belencion 10, Lingganay 10, Wetherell 9, Llagas 8, Javillonar 6, Gotladera 6, Pessumal 5, Santos 4, Tagarda 0.
BANCO DE ORO-NU (81) – Alejandro 19, Aroga 18, Salim 16, Yu 7, Perez 7, Diputado 4, Salem 4, Javelona 4, Labing-isa 2, Tangsinco 0, Rono 0.
Period Scores: 30-15, 59-32, 68-57, 83-81.