EcoOil-La Salle made its first-ever PBA D-League foray a memorable one as it clinched the 2022 Aspirants’ Cup title following a 91-78 conquest of Marinerong Pilipino in the decider, Wednesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Michael Phillips and Mark Nonoy contributed to the second-quarter surge, while CJ Austria came through with the finishing blows to help the Green Archers annex their first-ever championship in the developmental ranks.
“We have to want it and want it more, and the boys showed it,” said head coach Derrick Pumaren, who finally ascended to the top of the ranks after a runner-up finish with Centro Escolar University in the 2019 Aspirants’ Cup.
Phillips notched a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds, together with three assists, and three steals in yet another all-around outing.
Nonoy scored 15 markers as well, nine of which he made in the second period that saw him nail back-to-back triples to lead an 8-0 run for a 34-22 lead.
That run put EcoOil-La Salle in the driver’s seat and led by as much as 21 points, but it wasn’t all smooth-sailing as the Skippers managed to trim the deficit to just nine points midway through the final quarter.
But Austria was there to stop them on their tracks, scoring eight of the Archers’ final 12 points to close the conference out.
“As I told the boys kanina, this is part of the process. If we’re gonna bring our A-game, we have to bring it in today’s game,” said Pumaren.
Conference Most Valuable Player Juan Gomez de Liano led Marinerong Pilipino in the bridesmaid finish with a game-high 30 points, six rebounds, and three assists as the ball club once again fell short in the Finals.
Jollo Go, who’s been one of the Skippers’ leaders in the tournament, failed to finish the game after he was ejected for a low blow on Ben Phillips at the 8:53 mark of the third period. He left with only two points.
EcoOil-La Salle 91 –– Winston 16, M. Phillips 15, Nonoy 15, Nelle 13, Austria 8, Manuel 7, Quiambao 6, Nwankwo 6, B. Phillips 5, Macalalag 0.
Marinerong Pilipino 78 –– Gomez de Liano 30, Nocum 18, Gamboa 12, Soberano 7, Manlangit 5, Carino 2, Go 2, Pido 2, Bonifacio 0, Bonsubre 0, Agustin 0.
Quarterscores: 25-19, 51-36, 74-57, 91-78.