By: Ohmer Bautista
Chasing the golden hardware that they once failed to raise a year ago, the Philippine Air Firce Jet Spikers showed insatiable hunger, outlasting tormentors and defending champions Cignal HD Spikers, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21, 15-25, 15-13, to capture the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference men’s division Season Finals trophy at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
“Masaya kaming lahat kami nabawi namin ‘yung championship at hindi basta bastang bawi lang,” Air Force head coach Rhovyl Verayo shared.
With the win, the Jet Spikers have successfully quenched their one-year title drought since snagging the now-defunct V-League Reinforced conference crown two years ago, which was also at the expense of HD Spikers.
Bryan Bagunas, who topscored for Air Force with 30 points, was adjudged finals MVP.
“Syempre sobrang saya kasi nakamit ulit namin ‘yung goal namin,” the NU standout bared. “Pinaghandaan din kasi, ‘yung training hindi basta basta.”
Up by two sets to one, the Jet Spikers were poised to corral the medal for good. However, Marck Espejo showed why he’s the season MVP, scoring seven of the last 14 points for Air Force in the fourth set to force a decider.
“Nung fourth set, si Espejo ang hirap na pigilan eh. Kahit andun na ‘yung block eh, gumagawa talaga siya ng paraan. Hindi ko mabasa,” coach Verayo confessed.
But in the fifth set, with the game knotted at 9-all , the Jet Spikers dug deep and mustered a 6-4 spurt – capped by back-to-back hits from Air Force skipper Jeffrey Malabanan – to seal the championship.
Malabanan finished with 12 points, while Ranran Abdilla added 18 markers.
Espejo, on the other hand, erupted for 41 points built on 38 spikes and three blocks that went down the drain.
Fresh off the win, coach Verayo cited that his team has no time to rest, as they will immediately prepare to defend the title in the upcoming conferences.
“Next season, kailangan pa rin namin mag-strive ulit para ma-defend namin ‘yung championship,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the Vice Co. Blockbusters swept the best-of-three battle bronze medal series after taking Game 1 in come-from-behind fashion last Sunday, and upended PLDT Home Fibr Ultra Fast Hitters in Game 2, 25-23, 25-22, 25-21, Wednesday morning.
Jude Garcia was the lone double digit scorer for Vice Co. with 10.
Air Force (3) – Bagunas 30, Abdilla 18, Malabanan 12, Inaudito 9, Fuentes 7, Labrador 1, Lopez 0, Tolentino 0, De Ocampo 0, Marcos (L).
Cignal (2) – Espejo 41, Miguel 11, Marasigan 9, Intal 7, Torres 4, Bonono 4, Mangulabanan 1, Villanueva 0, Polvorosa 0, Montero (L), Sto. Tomas (L).