After a heart-wrenching loss in Game Two, Bryan Bagunas and the Go For Gold-Air Force sent a strong statement and punched the first ticket to the 2019 Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference Finals.
The Jet Spikers, who are seeking back-to-back Reinforced title crowns, disposed of the PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters in three sets, 25-20-25-23-25-22, Tuesday, at the Paco Arena in Manila.
“Do-or-die game kasi, lagi naman kaming ganun ng PLDT, so sabi ko matira matibay. Kung sino talaga yung willing manalo, yun ang mananalo. Tapos nag focus talaga kami sa blockings namin, kailangan namin makapuntos sa blocking. Kasi kung hindi, mahihirapan talaga kami,” said Air Force head coach Rhovyl Verayo.
Bagunas led the Power Hitters, firing 23 points, 22 of which came from attacks to go along with his 19 excellent receptions.
With his squad one set away from another Finals berth, Bagunas went all out; igniting a 3-0 run to take an 18-15 edge in the third set.
PLDT, however, did not go down without a fight. Josh Umandal pierced through the block which was then followed by an attack error from Fauzi Ismail which pulled the Power Hitters to within two points, 20-22.
Richard Solis tried to will his team back to the game, but differential hits from Ismail and Francis Saura sealed PLDT’s fate.
Ismail tallied 13 markers for Air Force while Kim Malabunga added 10 points built on six attacks, three blocks, and an ace.
Jessie Lopez stirred things together for the defending champions, dishing out 28 excellent sets for the Jet Spikers.
Air Force – who committed a total of 35 errors in Game Two – managed to trim it down to 16.
“Sabi ko nga, kailangan ma-minimize namin yung error, kasi yung first game namin is 42 errors, so almost two sets ang binigay namin. Minimize namin the second game, pero 35 pa rin, ang taas pa rin. So ngayon, mas naminimize ngayon,” said Verayo.
Despite bagging the game in straight sets, the Jet Spikers needed to go all out to be able to fend off the upset-seeking PLDT.
Air Force figured in a nip-and-tuck affair in the second set and entered the second technical timeout with a slim 16-14 advantage. After exchanging hits, Mark Alfafara was able to deliver an emphatic kill to take the lead, 23-22.
Bagunas and Malabunga scored the last three points for the Jet Spikers to take 2-0 lead.
National pool members Josh Umandal led PLDT with 12 points while John Vic De Guzman chipped in eight markers.
Air Force will start their three-peat bid on Friday, July 19 at 7:00 P.M. against the winner of the Cignal and Sta. Elena match. On the other hand, PLDT will face the losing team in the battle for third place at 5:00 P.M. at the same venue.