The Akari-Adamson Soaring Falcons needed to fend off a late rally from the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers before capturing the 71-64 victory, Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig and the top seed in the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup playoffs
Sean Manganti was scorching hot early, dropping 14 of his 15 points in the first half as he led the Falcons’ charge which gave them a 46-27 lead at the half and a 24-point advantage, 55-31, midway through the third period.
But the Heavy Bombers still showed some fight, as they roared back with a 16-1 run to end the frame and banked on Jeckster Apinan to get to within three, 58-55 in the last 6:04.
Jerom Lastimosa and Papi Sarr were there to deny the uprising, however, as they accounted for 11 of Akari-Adamson’s final 13 points to help the team escape with the win.
“I experimented with the new guys in the third quarter and allowed them to do their own thing and it almost caused us the game,” lamented coach Franz Pumaren.
The Soaring Falcons finished their eliminations with a 9-2 record to take the pole position and advance to the semifinals.
“If you have told me at the start of the season that we’ll end up as number one, I’ll think you might just be pulling my leg,” said Pumaren. “It’s a surprise on our part because we came to the league with the sole purpose of gaining experience here.”
Akari-Adamson will face the victor of the series between Che’Lu-San Sebastian and Gamboa-St. Clare.
Sarr corralled 13 markers and 10 rebounds, while Lastimosa had 11 markers, seven of which came in the fourth quarter, aside from his five assists and four boards.
Apinan carried the torch for JRU (2-9) with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Paolo Pontejos had 10 markers and seven boards in the loss.
Akari-Adamson 71 — Manganti 15, Sarr 13, Lastimosa 11, Ahanmisi 7, Camacho 7, Catapusan 6, Espeleta 5, Pingoy 5, Bernardo 2, Buenaventura 0, Macion 0, Mojica 0, Zaldivar 0.
JRU 64 — Apinan 17, Pontejos 10, De Guzman 9, Porter 9, Mendoza 6, Grospe 5, Dela Virgen 4, Esguerra 2, Perez 2, Bordon 0, Silvarez 0, Yu 0.
Quarterscores: 22-20, 46-27, 56-47, 71-64.