In a match fitting of its do-or-die tag, the Foton Tornadoes survived a late Philips Gold surge to advance to the Finals of the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix 25-18, 26-24, 18-25, 20-25, 15-8 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan City.
Foton blistered in the first set, opening a 20-9 gap off Philips’ miscues and never looking back. Philips broke out of an early slugfest in the second set and momentarily grabbed a 13-8 lead. But the Lady Slammers again botched routine plays and allowed Foton to climb back. Tying the set immediately, Foton fought and managed to reach set point first, 24-23. After a Myla Pablo down the line hit forced a deuce, Foton’s Jaja Santiago and Lindsay Stalzer uncorked back-to-back kills that gave Foton a 2-0 sets lead.
Taking an early lead in the third set, Philips held on and blew the set open with a late 6-1 run that buoyed them to a 23-16 lead. Behind 10 third set points from import Bo Todorovic, Philips took the frame convincingly. The fourth set had Foton fall behind early, 2-8, but a great string of serves from Ivy Perez powered a 4-0 spurt that trimmed the Philips lead down to two. Agressively pounding the ball, Foton surrendered costly errors down the stretch that halted their momentum and gave Philips an easy road to a set win.
Coming out guns ablaze, Foton pulled out their ace, Lindsay Stalzer, continously setting plays for the American which she resoundingly finished. Foton went ahead, 9-4, deflating the Lady Slammers and cruising into the best-of-three Finals to start on Monday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Stalzer finished with 29 markers off 26 attacks and three blocks. NU’s Jaja Santiago contributed 15 points while import Kathleen Messing added 13.
“There was some relaxing happening there (third and fourth set), but what was important was we didn’t give up and we focused on our game plan in the fifth set. Nawalan kami ng plays eh, pero mabuti naibalik namin noong fifth set,” said Foton head coach Vilet Ponce-De Leon. After being eliminated in the semis last Grand Prix, Foton makes it to the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
Former UCLA Bruin, Bo Todorovic led the Lady Slammers with a game-high 31 points, her second best output of the season after putting up 38 last Monday. She also added 10 digs and 29 excellent receptions. USC alum Alexis Olgard added 19 markers off 13 attacks and six blocks.
Philips will play the loser of the Petron-Cignal tilt on Saturday in the battle for third at Imus, Cavite.
Foton (3) – Stalzer 29, Santiago 15, Messing 13, Williams 7, Perez 6, Araneta 4, Estampa 0, Macatuno 0, Acevedo (L), General (L)
Philips Gold (2) – Todorovic 31, Olgard 19, Pablo 10, Dowd 6, Gumabao 5, Ddamg 4, Malaluan 1, Nepomuceno 0, Gohing (L)
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