MANILA, Philippines—With its offense struggling, Air21-JRU turned to its stifling defense to repel Big Chill, 63-61, Tuesday and arranged a knockout duel for a semifinals berth in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Arena in San Juan.
The Heavy Bombers, who lead the league in forcing turnovers, tightened up their defense down the stretch, forcing the Superchargers to turn the ball over.
“That was the turning point of the game, we were able to capitalize on their mistakes,” said JRU head coach Vergel Meneses.
Ryan Buenafe made an errant pass that resulted to a breakaway layup by John Pinto that gave JRU a 61-59, edge with 1:51 left before Jeckster Apinan took the ball away from Alex Nuyles in the ensuing play.
To cap off the Bombers’ solid defensive effort, the Superchargers weren’t even able to put up an attempt in the waning seconds of the game after Mac Montilla found himself trapped at the right side.
“We’ll go for it (on Thursday). Sa pagkakapanalo ng mga bata ngayon mataas morale nila,” added Meneses, who’s confident of his team’s chances to make the semis.
Apinan and Michael Mabulac each split their charities to set the final count.
Big Chill was also forced to attempt outside shots with Alex Nuyles and Mark Canlas both misfiring from deep.
Nuyles’ missed triple would’ve given his team a two-point lead.
Mabulac’s made a free throw with only 8.6 seconds left.
Khazim Mirza led the Bombers, who shot just 32.4 percent from the field, with 12 points while Dexter Maiquez added 11 points.
Arvie Bringas paced Big Chill, which will try to bounce back on Thursday, with 10 points.