The Phoenix-Far Eastern University Accelerators, led by the troika of Ed Daquioag, Mike Tolomia, and Mac Belo, held powerhouse Caida Tiles Masters field goal-less in the crucial moments of the final quarter to go up 1-0 in the best-of-three semifinals series in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup tournament, 90-83, Tuesday afternoon at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
In contrast to their elimination round meeting, the Accelerators were able to keep pace against the Tile Masters in the first half of the game. Even with Mike Tolomia struggling, Ed Daquioag stepped up for Phoenix-FEU in scoring 16 points in the first half. He was 7/11 from the field and grabbed four boards during that frame. Russel Escoto also added eight points and seven boards in the first half.
“Kinausap ko si Ed, sabi ko take charge. Ikaw ang big factor dito,” Phoenix-FEU head coach Eric Gonzales said about Daquioag. The former UST Growling Tiger missed their elimination round game against Caida due to a sprained ankle. “Kahit mag-error siya, maglaro lang siya. Nag-take charge talaga siya parang UST lang.”
However, the depth of Caida was in full display during the first half en route to a 46-42 lead. Jonathan Grey and Chris Javier combined for 18 first half points while Roider Cabrera added seven. Moreover, floor general Jio Jalalon again showcased his brilliance in the opening half as he provided seven points, five rebounds, and five assists in 15 minutes of action.
Caida held a solitary point to enter the final frame, 68-67. The two teams continued to trade baskets up until the midway point of the fourth quarter. Sensing a mismatch against Richard Escoto, Jason Perkins utilized his inside game for four points while an excellent find by Joseph Terson for a trailing Roider Cabrera gave Caida a 78-74 lead with 5:24 left in the game. It would be the last field goal scored by the Tile Masters for the next five minutes.
The Accelerators locked down on their defense in the last five minutes of the game in a huge 12-1 blast. Daquioag sparked the rally with two free throw conversions while a Belo putback and runner in back-to-back sequences gave Phoenix-FEU an 82-78 lead with 3:51 remaining. A split on the stripe by Philip Paniamogan did not help the Caida cause. Mike Tolomia, Roger Pogoy, and Mac Belo provided the finishing touches as the Accelerators took Game One 90-83.
The consistency that was lacking all throughout the season for the Accelerators was finally found in this game according to Gonzales. “We are trying to teach our players to engage in the war, he said. We reminded the players about the little big things.”
“The last two minutes will be there. What’s more important is when you play a talented team like Caida are the little big things like boxing out, sprint out, locate, and communicate.”
Daquioag led the Accelerators with 32 points on 13/18 shooting and was able to grab eight boards. Belo, even in shooting just 8/19 from the field, added 20 markers and nine boards.
For Caida, five players scored in double-digits with Jonathan Grey’s 14 points leading the team. However, the Tile Masters was just 40% from the field including a horrible 6/30 shooting from the three-point distance.
Game Two of this series is set to be played on Tuesday, March 29 in the same venue.
Phoenix-FEU (90) – Daquioag 32, Belo 20, Ru. Escoto 11, Tolomia 10, Tamsi 5, Andrada 4, Pogoy 4, Inigo 3, Ri. Escoto 1, Mendoza 0.
Caida Tiles (83) – Grey 14, Perkins 12, Javier 11, Cabrera 10, Terso 10, Jalalon 9, Paniamogan 7, Robles 4, Maiquez 3, Gabawan 2, Nambatac 1.
Quarterscores: 23-23, 42-46, 67-68, 90-83.