Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) found an opportunity to strike early and wasted no time clobbering the injury-hit defending champion Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), 90-73, in Game 1 of their best-of-three title series in the 8th UNTV Cup held over the weekend at Paco Arena, Manila.
Without top players Wilfredo Casulla and Jeffrey Quiambao, and with veteran playmaker Eugene Tan playing through pain, the AFP Cavaliers proved easy prey. The DENR Warriors used the occasion to score almost at will and avenge their elimination encounter.
More than that, the Warriors moved on the cusp of winning the title on their first try in the event organized by UNTV President and CEO Dr. Daniel Razon for public servants, where the charity of the winning team gets a tax-free P4 million prize.
The Warriors can make their chosen charity very happy if they can complete a series sweep on Monday where the matches — including the newly-introduced 3×3 — will be played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Cavaliers, however, cannot use the injuries to key players as an excuse for their defeat — only their second in 12 games.
DENR defended tightly and rotated the ball so well that it posted an impressive 50 percent shooting from the field, making 31 of 62 tries with five players finishing in double digits.
Meanwhile, National Housing Authority, getting a big game from Alvin Vitug, clinched third place by beating Judiciary, 74-67, a victory that made its own charity P1 million richer.
Advancing to the semis in the 3×3 event are PhilHealth, SSS Kabalikat, Ombudsman and PITC.
Ralph Lansang once again led DENR’s well-balanced attack with 20 points apart from grabbing 9 boards. Ryan Abanes was a big revelation with 14 points.
On the other hand, Ed Rivera, a hot candidate for the MVP plum, added 15 points besides providing the intangibles. Desederio Ayson and Melvin Bangal contributed 14 and 13 points, respectively.
DENR 90 – Lansang 20, Rivera 15, Abanes 14, Ayson 14, Bangal 13, Atablanco 4, Gamboa 4, Parreño 3, Garcia 3, Mamac 0, Calungcagin 0.
AFP 73 – Almerol 19, Lumongsod 10, Cordero 13, Rosopa 9, Tan 8, Bautista 7, Sergio 5, Pascual 4, Zuniga 0, Araneta 0.
Quarterscores: 28-17, 43-34, 65-54, 90-73.