With a dominating pair of imports, a deep local roster and more-than-ample preparation time, Foton went from a Cinderella squad that surprised people with its first title last season to a dominant team that successfully defended its crown this year.
Lindsay Stalzer and Ariel Usher combined for 33 points as Foton held off Petron, 25-20, 25-20, 22-25, 25-17, to capture the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix title last night.
The Tornadoes merely had to correct a third-set wobble before sweeping the best-of-three affair at PhilSports Arena—a welcome change from their tense Game 1 victory, where they needed to overcome a 0-2 set deficit to win.
“Petron is very good team but we made some adjustments in the latter part of the match,” said Foton’s Serbian coach Moro Branislav. “We had some problem in [the] third set but we solved it by being clever in the fourth set.”
Branislav’s “clever” move was to alternate Stalzer and Usher at the open position and leave Santiago in the opposite side, disrupting Petron’s established defensive rotation.
“Fortunately, they responded to the challenge,” added Branislav.
Usher, who is set to marry next year, topscored with 19 points, while Stalzer added 14. Most Valuable Player Jaja Santiago added 10 markers.
Stalzer, the 6-foot-1 Illinois native, was also part of the last year’s young and inexperienced squad that won last year’s title by stunning Petron.
The Tornadoes had a massive build-up this year, acquiring Manabat, veterans Rhea Dimaculangan and Maika Ortiz; rah-rah UST spikers EJ Laure and Cherry Rondina. Foton also added Usher as a second import.
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