MANILA, Philippines – Blackwater enhanced its chances of keeping the second spot after beating struggling Cebuana Lhuillier 91-80 Tuesday in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Trinity University of Asia gym in Quezon City.
Rob Celiz topscored with 20 points while Kevin Ferrer pumped in 17 points as the Elite gained a full-game cushion over third-placers Big Chill and Cagayan.
“Kailangan kong ma-sweep remaining games kasi pagnagtabla kami ng Big Chill, sila ang number two (We need to sweep the remaining games because if we tie with Big Chill they’ll clinch number two),” said Blackwater head coach Leo Isaac.
Ferrer led Blackwater’s third-quarter push with eight points, including a trey that put them up 55-39 in the early part of the second half.
The Gems battled back thanks to a 14-0 blast to pull to within two 53-55.
But Celiz kept Cebuana Lhuillier at bay. He completed a three-point play to extend his team’s lead to nine 65-56.
Aside from the Elite’s big third quarter, Isaac also praised his players poise down the stretch.
“Start of third quarter we were able to build a 15-point lead, they came back but the players kept their composure, especially Jeric Fortuna and Robby Celiz.”
Jeric Fortuna scored four of his 11 points in the final two minutes that finally put the Gems away for good.
The Gems failed to break out of their funk even with the signing of James Martinez as their chances of making the quarterfinals took another hit.
Martinez struggled with just eight points on two-of-nine shooting from the field but part of his output was a huge four-point play that trimmed the deficit to six 75-81 nearing the final two minutes.
Fortuna countered in style, splitting the defense before nailing a jumper from mid-range followed by triple by Ian Mazo, who made all of his four treys, that sealed Blackwater’s sixth win against only two losses.
“Ang bola nasa kamay namin di namin kailangan umasa na matalo ang iba matalo sila,” added Isaac. “It’s been working very well for us.”
The Gems, led by Jopher Custodio’s 17 points, fell to 3-5.