Ex-pros Jerwin Gaco and Mark Cruz carried the load for the Tanduay Rhum Masters once more, leading them to a shocking 66-55 win over top-seed Cignal-San Beda HD Hawkeyes and inching them closer to a return trip to the Finals.
The two combined for 22 of the Rhum Masters’ 28-point third quarter explosion to pull away, 56-35, and silence the youthful Hawkeyes.
Gaco unloaded 16 points, seven rebounds, and two assists, while Cruz scattered 15 markers, four boards, and two dimes for the victory.
Adrian Santos also fired 11 points and eight rebounds. Jaymo Eguilos got five markers and grabbed 12 boards to stabilize Tanduay’s defense on the high-scoring Cignal.
The win stopped the Hawkeyes’ winning streak at eight, while also dealing coach Boyet Fernandez his first career defeat in a D-League semifinals.
Those were the least of coach Lawrence Chongson’s concerns, however, as he said, “It’s not about cliches anymore. It’s about us needing to win for ourselves, We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Pamboy Raymundo paced Cignal with 13 points and three rebounds, while Javee Mocon had 11 markers and six boards.
Game Two is set to take place on Thursday, March 24, at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Tanduay (66) – Gaco 16, Cruz 15, Santos 11, Palma 6, Varilla 6, Eguilos 5, Vigil 3, Alvarez 2, Quinto 2, Sanga 0, Sollano 0, Stevens 0, Villamor 0.
Cignal-San Beda (55) – Raymundo 13, Mocon 11, Bolick 9, Bringas 6, Perkins 6, Arong 4, Adamos 2, Arboleda 2, Tongco 2, Batino 0, Cahilig 0, Oftana 0, Potts 0, Villarias 0.
Quarterscores: 11-14, 28-20, 56-35, 66-55.