MANILA, Philippines—Paul Zamar sank the game-winning basket to lift Cebuana Lhuillier over Cagayan Valley, 84-83, Tuesday and forge a rubber match for a semifinals slot in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Arena in San Juan.
With the shot clock winding down, Zamar drove past his defender from the left elbow before calmly hitting a floater with exactly 20 seconds left.
“The game plan in the end game was really for Zamar and James Martinez to get the ball. Pinag-sasabay ko talaga sila sa loob (I use them together in the court),” said Cebuana head coach Beajing Acot.
Zamar ended up with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists while Martinez had his way from beyond-the-arc with four triples en route to 12 points.
The Rising Suns blew several chances to tie the game with forward James Forrester going just one-of-two at the free throw line. Jason Melano grabbed Forrester’s missed free throw but was tied up by Gab Banal, with Banal winning the tip.
Banal finished with a game-high 21 points and collected five rebounds and two blocks.
“Gab was a revelation for us. He can post up, he can shoot and he can dribble. I see Gab Banal going up in the PBA soon,” marveled Acot.
Paul Sanga had the opportunity to give Cebuana a three-point cushion with 1.4 ticks left but the pressure got the best of him as he came up empty at the stripe.
Fortunately for the Gems, guard Rex Leynes was able to get the offensive rebound. Leynes, who was fouled with less than a second left, intentionally missed his second freebie as time expired.
Cebuana looks to complete its comeback bid on Thursday, with the winner facing No.2 Blackwater in the semifinals.
“Parang gusto yata ng team namin knockout matches (Our team wants knockout matches),” added Acot with a smile, whose team survived its third do-or-die match dating back to the elimination round.
“I like our chances. As long as the game is close we have a chance.”
Banal put the Gems on top by nine, 75-66, with under eight minutes left before Andrian Celada caught fire scoring all of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a layup off the fastbreak that knotted the count at 82, with 37.6 ticks remaining.
Celada went on a personal 6-0 run, drilling in a three before completing a three-point play that gave the lead back to Cagayan, 78-75, midway through the final frame.
Banal answered back with a triple to tie the game as both teams exchanged baskets before Cebuana getting the final say courtesy of Zamar’s clutch basket.
Chris Exciminiano led the Rising Suns with 17 points but was scoreless in the fourth. Raymond Almazan added 15 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.
Cebuana out-scored Cagayan, which committed 20 turnovers, 27-13 in the third quarter to turn an eight-deficit to a 69-63 lead entering the fourth period.