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Basketball

Acuna hits game-winner as Tanduay storms back, stuns UP-QRS/Jam Liner

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Val Acuna knocked down a triple with only 2.5 seconds left to carry the Tanduay Rhum Masters to a come-from-behind 68-66 victory over UP-QRS/Jam Liner Maroonsm Thursday in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup quarterfinals at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

The Rhum Masters trailed by as much 21 in the first half, but stormed back to force a do-or-die match next week, with the winner advancing to the semi-finals against Cafe France.

“We had to crawl back from 21. I had to give it to the boys. Yung instinct to survive, hindi nila kami pinahiya. But still, we haven’t won anything yet. We lived to fight for another day,” said Rhum Masters head coach Lawrence Tiongson, who also gave praise to Acuna.

“Dapat kang bumawi siya, sama ng first half niya eh. Siguro talagang sabi ko nga, it will boil down to breaks. Sa breaks talaga magkakatalo. Sinuklian niya yung confidence at trust na binigay ko.”

Acuna went without a field goal in the first half, but poured eight of his nine points in the final period, including the game-winning three.

Pari Llagas was the high point man for Tanduay with 13 points, although the team had to do without him in the fourth as he was ejected after picking up a flagrant foul late in the third.

UP-QRS/Jam Liner jumped to a 26-13 first quarter lead as Kevin Ferrer found his groove early on. The Maroons then opened the second period on an 8-0 run to make it a 34-13 lead in the first half after a three by Byron Villarias.

The Rhum Masters shot only 24% from the field in the first two quarters, but began fighting back in the third, with an and-one by Lucas Tagarda capping an 8-2 burst which cut the deficit to only 41-31.

Later, Llagas asserted control inside the paint, scoring eight straight to hand Tanduay the 50-48 lead. Tanduay would outscore UP-QRS/Jam Liner in the third frame, 33-13.

But Maroons were held without a field goal for over six minutes in the fourth, while Acuna pushed the Rhum Masters’ lead up to 63-57, before Gelo Alolino ended the Maroons’ drought with a three.

Raymond Aguilar then buckled down to help the Maroons tie the count at 65 apiece. Paul Desiderio gave the lead back to UP-QRS/Jam Liner after splitting from the line with only 11.4 seconds left, 66-65.

But off a timeout, Acuna nailed the game-winning three. The Maroons had 2.5 seconds left to try and force overtime, but Raul Soyud’s put-back off an Aguilar miss was nullified upon review as it did not make it before the time expired.

“It would have been disastrous,” Tiongson said. “Yung slow start and yung mental toughness (kailangan ayusin).”

Aguilar led the Maroons with 17 points and seven rebounds. Alfred Batino and Ferrer added 15 and 13 points, respectively.

The Scores:

Tanduay (68) – Llagas 13, Javillonar 10, Acuna 9, Celda 7, Belencion 6, Lingganay 6, Santos 6, Tagarda 6, Gotladera 3, Wetherell 2.

UP-QRS/Jam Liner (66) – Aguilar 17, Batino 15, Ferrer 13, Alolino 7, Soyud 4, Desiderio 3, Villarias 3, Lim 2, Neypes 1, Sorela 1.

Quarterscores: 13-26, 23-39, 52-55, 68-66.

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