MANILA – Flying V Thunder squandered an early lead before hanging on to a 65-61 victory over Centro Escolar University Scorpions in Game 1 of the 2017 PBA D-League Foundation Cup semifinals at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
After seeing its nine-point lead chopped down to 63-61 on Thursday night, the Thunder nearly squandered the match with guard Thomas Torres being whistled for a flagrant foul. Scorpions’ Orlan Wamar luckily misfired two free throws.
The Thunder then banked on its defense in the next possession with Gabriel Banal drawing an offensive foul from Scorpions’ Rodrigue Ebondo before sealing the win on the other end on free throws by Jerick Cañada.
“I think pagdating sa mga ganoong situations, you really have to assert yourself defensively. And I think this game really boiled down to the stops. We were able to make the crucial stops,” said Thunder head coach Eric Altamirano.
Jeron Teng missed out on another triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists to lead the way for the Thunder, which is eyeing to clinch a championship berth in Game 2 on Tuesday.
Former PBA cagers Banal and Eric Salamat chipped in with 12 points apiece for the Thunder, which has extended its unbeaten record to 12 dating back to the elimination round.
Ebondo finished with double-double 20 points and 27 rebounds while Art Aquino chipped in 17 markers for the Scorpions.
The Scorpions hope to extend the series to a do-or-die Game 3 next Thursday.
Aspirants Cup champions Cignal HD Hawkeyes also moved closer to a championship berth after halting the streaking Marinerong Pilipino Skippers with a lopsided 86-67 win in the series-opener.
Raymar Jose led the way with 17 points, while Ilonggo John Byron Villarias and Jason Perkins each had 13 markers for the Hawkeyes, which is looking for its second straight PBA D-League title.
FLYING V 65 – Teng 17, Banal 12, Salamat 12, Torres 6, Austria 5, Dionisio 4, Thiele 3, Cañada 2, Paredes 2, Tampus 2, Koga 0.
CEU 61 – Ebondo 20, Aquino 17, Wamar 9, Cruz 8, Jeruta 6, Casiño 1, Fuentes 0, Guinitaran 0, Intic 0.
Quarterscores: 14-13, 31-32, 54-46, 65-61./PN