(Ynares Sports Arena, Pasig City)
2 p.m. NLEX vs Big Chill
Big Chill prevented a huge meltdown in the second half to hack out an 83-80 victory over Cebuana Lhuillier and earn the last finals berth in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Superchargers weathered the loss of a 15-point third quarter lead and a nine-point deficit early in the payoff period to snare a thrilling win over the Gems at the close of their best-of-three semifinal series.
By winning the deciding game, the closest of the series, Big Chill earned the right to face defending champion and unbeaten NLEX in the finals, which will also be a best-of-three affair.
Game One of the championship series will start on Monday.
“What a win,” said a relieved coach Robert Sison after the game. “The boys stepped up. They responded to the pressure in the endgame. Were happy being in the finals but were not yet satisfied. Our goal is to win the championship.”
Jesse Collado played just 11 minutes but made the biggest shot of the afternoon.
Collado broke a 78-all tie with a booming three with 1:41 remaining before Big Chill made up for a pair of missed free throws by Jam Cortes late with its defense to fend off the Gems.
Lester Alvarez and James Mangahas missed a pair of threes in the last two possessions as Cebuana lost the semis for the second straight conference.
It was a momentous feat for the Superchargers, who endured struggles playing in the PBL and the Tournament of the Philippines before joining the D-League last year.
Big Chill also faced adversity early this conference when Sison replaced Arsenio Dysangco after an 80-70 loss to NLEX in its maiden outing.
The Superchargers earned an outright semis berth but suffered a 79-66 loss to Cebuana in Game 1. They were able to bounce back with a 111-70 rout in Game 2 to level the series.
In the decider, Filipino-American forward Alex Mallari poured 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists while four others scored in double figures.
With some help from Cortes (15 points), Raffy Reyes (13), Keith Jensen (11) and Jewel Ponferrada (10), Big Chill took a 50-35 lead in the third but saw a resilient comeback by the Gems.
Behind Marvin Hayes, who finished with 10 points and five boards, the outside shooting of Janus Lozada and Lester Alvarez and the pesky play of Ping Exciminiano, Cebuana took the driver seat to grab a 69-60 lead in the early goings of the fourth.
But Big Chill countered on an 11-2 run with Mallari nailing two treys and Jensen firing one of his own to level the count at 71-all with six minutes to spare.
Vic Manuel, a strong candidate for the Most Valuable Player plum, finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and two assists for the Gems in a losing cause.
“Cebuana played a hell of a ballgame, they were not demoralized after the loss in Game 2,” said Sison.
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