The Phoenix Petroleum-FEU Accelerators used a strong fourth quarter to bury the Caida Tile Masters, 94-90, to enter the Finals of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup, Tuesday evening at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Both teams traded baskets early on in the opening quarter. Philip Paniamogan split his charities, and Jio Jalalon scored his second basket of the game for an 8-5 Caida lead. Phoenix were quick to counter with Gryann Mendoza making two free throws, Mike Tolomia scoring on a trey, and Ed Daquioag making two of two from the line for a 12-8 lead. Paniamogan scored on a three, but was countered by Daquioag, who made his own triple before a Dexter Maiquez basket trimmed Caida’s deficit to 2, 15-13, forcing a Phoenix timeout.
Caida tried to take the lead multiple times during the quarter, but Phoenix were able to score each time Caida did, fending off the Tile Masters. The opening quarter ended with Phoenix holding a slim 28-26 lead.
Caida were able to compose themselves, and within three minutes of the second quarter, they were able to take the lead. Joseph Terso scored on a jump shot, and Jamil Gabawan assisted on an and-one by Chris Javier for a 31-30 Caida lead. While Tolomia was able to score on a triple, Terso quickly countered with a three of his own to retake the lead. Caida were able to extend their lead with another triple from Terso, followed by a basket by Jonathan Grey for a 46-37 lead. Caida even led by double digits, 54-44, during the waning moments of the quarter, but a Tolomia drive with four seconds remaining cut Phoenix’s deficit to 8, 54-46.
Phoenix saw themselves trailing by double-digits once more during the early moments of the third quarter, but a triple by Mendoza, followed by baskets from Tolomia and Daquioag, saw Phoenix trailing by just 3, 59-56. After Maiquez split his freebies, Phoenix went on another 7-0 run, with Raymar Jose hitting two free throws. Former Green Archer Yutien Andrada scored on the inside, and Roger Pogoy hit a layup. Javier momentarily gave Caida the lead with an and-one play, but four free throws from Daquioag gave Phoenix the lead once more. Caida were able to tie the set at 66-all, but Daquioag scored on the inside, followed by a Mac Belo jumper, to give Phoenix the lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Jose opened the final canto scoring Phoenix’s first four points, his only field goals of the game. Caida trimmed their deficit to a single point after a Jayson Perkins inside shot. This, however, was met with six straight points from Phoenix, as Caida called a timeout. Grey led a last-ditch effort by Caida to salvage their season, but they were unable to keep Phoenix from the free throw line, dooming their chances.
Phoenix were led by 22 huge points by Daquioag on an efficient six-of-eight shooting. He also pitched in three assists and three rebounds. Tolomia contributed 17 points and six assists, while Mendoza, Pogoy, and Belo had 14 and 13 points respectively.
Grey led Caida’s charge with 22 points, four rebounds, and a pair of steals, while Maiquez and Terso both contributed 11 points each.
Phoenix-FEU head coach Eric Gonzales expressed joy at the way his team played during the final two quarters. “Masaya ako kay God, masaya ako sa players na nag deliver,” an exhasperated Gonzales said.
He did, however, lament the team’s body language during the first half. Thankfully his team reacted well to his halftime talk.
“Sabi ko if you’re gonna play the same way again as the first half, hindi ako magtataka na matatalo tayo. Kasi ang ginawa kong pep talk sa kanila nung game one against Caida,” Gonzales added. ‘We are outrebounded, but we outhustled them and we outplayed them’. Inencourage ko lang sila and very thankful ako na nagdeliver sila.”
Phoenix-FEU will face Café France-CEU in Game One of the Finals on Thursday, March 31, 3pm at the Ynares Sports Center.
Phoenix-FEU (94) – Daquioag 22, Tolomia 17, Mendoza 14, Pogoy 13, Belo 11, Jose 9, Andrada 4, Escoto Ru. 4, Escoto Ri. 0, Inigo 0, Tamsi 0.
Caida (90) – Grey 22, Maiquez 11, Terso 11, Jalalon 9, Javier 8, Nambatac 7, Paniamogan 7, Gabawan 6, Perkins 5, Ruaya 4, Cabrera 0, Robles 0.
Quarterscores: 28-26, 46-54, 72-69, 94-90.