PASIG CITY – Tanduay Rhum clinched the final semifinal slot in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup after ambushing QRS JAM Liner-UP, 99-89, Thursday (March 17) at the Ynares Sports Arena. The fifth seed Rhum Masters thus overcame the fourth seed Maroons’ twice-to-beat advantage, winning their first meeting exactly a week ago, 68-66.
With no less than team owner Bong Tan in attendance, the Rhum Masters unleashed a brilliant display of shooting prowess as Jaypee Belencion drained four triples and Jeoffry Javillonar added two more as they raced to a 24-12 lead en route a 28-21 count after the first period. Tanduay failed to sustain their momentum in the second as Gelo Alolino scored 11 points to help push the Maroons on top at halftime, 45-41.
A suddenly fired up Tanduay quintet showed up for the second half with Belencion rediscovering his shooting form, firing 10 more markers to restore control back to the Rhum Masters, 66-56. Belencion then nailed another trey to erect Tanduay’s biggest lead of the contest, 75-56, and the Maroons never recovered.
Lucas Tagarda and Adrian Santos delivered the key baskets and free throws to preserve the win. The best the Maroons could do was close in by six on back to back triples from Kevin Ferrer and Alolino with a minute to play, 87-93.
“God has plans for us that’s why he made us go through these tough games,” said Coach Lawrence Chongson. “We are lucky to still be alive.”
Belencion finished with a personal tournament-best 27 points spiked by seven triples on top of five rebounds. Tagarda and Santos had 14 and 13 points respectively all made in the second half.
Alolino likewise had a personal tournament-high 24 points. Raymond Aguilar followed with 17 while Raul Soyud had a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Up next for the Rhum Masters is top seed CafeFrance-CEU, a team they beat in the elimination round, 79-74. However, Coach Chongson is dismissing the notion they hold a psychological advantage since everything will now be even come the best of three semis.
The other semifinal fixture will put Caida Tiles against Phoenix Petroleum-FEU. Both series will begin on March 22 (Tuesday) at the San Juan Arena.
How They Scored:
TANDUAY RHUM (99) – Belencion 27, Tagarda 14, Santos 13, Javillonar 12, Lingganay 10, Llagas 8, Pessumal 4, Acuna 4, Celda 4, Wetherell 3, Gotladera 0.
QRS JAM LINER-UP (89) – Alolino 24, Aguilar 17, Soyud 15, Ferrer 15, Lim 6, Desiderio 6, Batino 4, Villarias 2, Moralde 0, Sorela 0, Neypes 0.
Period Scores: 28-21, 41-45, 66-56, 99-89.