The Che’Lu Revellers continued to own the Go for Gold Scratchers’ number, scoring the 100-96 come-from-behind Game 1 win to draw first blood in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Jeff Viernes had the biggest imprint in the heist, dropping 27 of his 34 points in the second half, while also collecting eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals for the top-seed Revellers.
The cold-blooded scorer’s contributions were big, leading Che’Lu back from 15-points down, 59-44, in the first half, before outmaneuvering Go for Gold in the payoff period, 27-11.
“They simply didn’t want to lose,” said coach Stevenson Tiu. “Sa halftime, walang gustong mag-back down. After that, nakita ninyo yung transformation started sa third quarter.”
Viernes accounted for 15 of the Revellers’ 27 third quarter points, which woke them up to stage the final assault.
It was still the Isabela-born guard who spurred Che’Lu in the end game, dropping seven of their last eight, before cramps caused him to miss two crucial freebies in the last 12.3 seconds that kept the door open for Go for Gold.
Luckily for them, Jai Reyes botched his overtime-forcing triple before Chris Bitoon, who got 22 points and seven rebounds, split from the line to seal the game shut.
Jessie Collado chimed in 13 points, four boards, and three assists, while JayR Taganas went a point short of a double-double with his nine points and 10 rebounds.
It was a heartbreaker for Go for Gold, who banked on Gab Banal’s near triple-double performance of 24 points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists.
Game 2 is on Tuesday, with Che’Lu shooting for the commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Che’Lu 100 – Viernes 34, Bitoon 22, Collado 13, Taganas 9, Hernandez 7, Siruma 7, Melano 4, Ruaya 4, De Joya 0, Sta. Ana 0.
Go for Gold 96 – Banal 24, Porter 11, Reyes 11, Tolentino 10, Canada 8, Gaco 8, Salem 7, Publico 6, Wong 5, Dennison 3, Desiderio 3.
Quarterscores: 21-33, 46-59, 73-85, 100-96.