PASIG CITY – Flying V survived its biggest and toughest challenge to date as they sneaked past Centro Escolar University, 65-61, to kickoff the semifinal round of the 2017 PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena Thursday (August 10). Suddenly, the undefeated Thunder looked vulnerable amidst the strong CEU rally in the second half but held form down the stretch to secure their 11th straight victory of the tournament.
The Scorpions had a strong grip on the game until late in the third period when Jeron Teng and Gab Banal combined in a late run to give Flying V a 54-46 cushion entering the final period. However, CEU clawed back behind Rodrigue Ebondo at Art Patrick Aquino to threaten at 1:20 mark on Aquino’s basket, 61-63.
Flying V dodged a major bullet when Thomas Torres was assessed a flagrant foul on Orlan Wamar with 21 ticks remaining but the CEU guard failed to convert on both his free throws to keep the count at 63-61 in favor of the Thunder. With the ball remaining with the Scorpions, Banal successfully fished an offensive foul on a driving Ebondo to get back possession with six ticks to play, forcing CEU to give up a foul on Jerrick Canada who settled the final tally via two charities.
“This game was about making the defensive stops and our defense saved us today,” said Coach Eric Altamirano. “This is the playoffs and we saw CEU raise their level of play and we have to match that.”
The 65 points was Flying V’s lowest output ever. The Scorpions’ defense forced them to convert only 21 of their 65 field goal attempts.
After notching triple-doubles in the last three games, Teng missed a possible fourth by three assists with 17 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. Banal and Eric Salamat ably backed him up with 12 markers each.
Ebondo’s stellar effort of 20 points and 27 rebounds went to waste as CEU has no choice but the get Game Two next Tuesday at the same venue. Aquino was next with 17 points and four rebounds.
How They Scored:
FLYING V (65) – Teng 17, Salamat 12, Banal 12, Torres 6, Austria 5, Dionisio 4, Thiele 3, Canada 2, Paredes 2, Tampus 2, Koga 0.
CENTRO ESCOLAR (61) – Ebondo 20, Aquino 17, Wamar 9, Cruz 8, Jeruta 6, Casino 1, Manlangit 0, Fuentes 0, Intic 0, Guinitaran 0.
Period Scores: 14-13, 31-32, 54-46, 65-61.