By Jerome Lagunzad
(Ynares Sports Arena)
12 p.m. – Akari-Adamson vs Perpetual
2 p.m. – JRU vs Zark’s Burgers-Lyceum
Firing on all cylinders right from the get-go, Marinerong Pilipino sent Gamboa Coffee Mix crashing back to earth, 99-83, yesterday to secure a playoff spot in the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao, Quezon City.
Former Rain or Shine practice player Billy Ray Robles scored 19 points off the bench while Alvin Pasaol, Rian Ayonayon and Vince Tolentino added at least 11 points each as the Skippers’ offensive onslaught proved too much for the Coffee Lovers.
It was the sixth straight victory and seventh overall in nine starts for Marinerong Pilipino, which gained a share of the second spot with idle Akari-Adamson, keeping itself in strong contention for a Top 2 finish which dangles an outright semis berth.
“We’re on a roll actually right now,” beamed Skippers coach Koy Banal, whose wards exploded for 31 points in the opening period and built a lead as high as 30. “We want to keep on rolling going to the playoffs especially that we were able to get a win that made it official we are in the playoffs now.”
In the other match, Judel Fuentes drilled the go-ahead triple with 2.9 seconds left as Centro Escolar University survived Wang’s Basketball, 79-75, and seized the solo lead.
Skipper Orlan Wamar sizzled with 26 points off the bench but it was his backcourt buddy Fuentes who came through with the most decisive bucket that shattered a 75-all count and steered the Scorpions to their eighth win in 10 starts despite playing without prized Congolose center Rod Ebondo who’s nursing a back injury.
Jerrick Balanza played his finest game so far with 25 points while Bong Quinto added 16 points and 14 rebounds that all went down the drain as the Couriers came up short in the stretch, leading to their fourth loss against five wins.
Mainstay Aris Dionisio and Mali center Mohammed Pare teamed up for 30 points and as many rebounds but Fil-Am guard Trevis Jackson struggled with just 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting as Gamboa Coffee Lovers, which defeated title contenders CEU and Zark’s Burgers last week, slipped down to 5-4.
The Skippers’ torrid shooting should be considered as the main culprit of the Coffee Lovers’ latest setback. Much to the delight of Banal, Marinerong Pilipino made half of its 76 attempts from the field, most of them inside the arc, anchored on 23 assists.
“We just wanted to focus on ourselves,” said Banal. “We showed them what Gamboa can do. The motivation there is to prepare ourselves. Aside from the physical aspect, we wanted to prepare mentally kasi it’s all about game planning.
We want to ready them mentally and emotionally.”