Buzzer-beater: Onwubere triple powers Racal five
Sidney Onwubere nailed a triple as time expired, lifting Racal to an 88-86 decision over Cafe France on Tuesday as the Tile Masters moved on the cusp of a first PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup finals appearance at Marikina Sports Center.
Known more for his defensive toughness, the Emilio Aguinaldo College standout flashed another facet of his game, finding his touch from beyond the arc just in time to bail out the Tile Masters, who refused to flinch even after the Bakers took a one-point lead with 1.9 seconds remaining.
Onwubere’s shot capped a wild endgame sequence where Cafe France center Rod Ebondo also buried a triple to put the Bakers on top, 86-85, after Onwubere made two free throws.
“We were only looking for a decent shot,” said Racal coach Jerry Codiñera, whose team closed the game on a 13-4 run to grab the headstart in the best-of-three semifinal series. “Sidney was open. I’m happy with the patience he showed on offense today.”
Later, Tanduay stunned a surprisingly listless Cignal-San Beda with a 66-55 victory to also close in on a second straight finals appearance.
The Rhum Masters cranked up the defensive pressure on the Hawkeyes early, holding the high-scoring squad to just 20 points in the first two periods on their way to gaining a 1-0 edge in the series.
Jerwin Gaco shone on both ends, scoring 16 points while providing the defensive muscle inside the paint, while Mark Cruz tallied 15 points for the Rhum Masters, who snapped the Hawkeyes’ eight-game winning streak.
The Rhum Masters didn’t just snap Cignal’s winning streak, but they also dealt coach Boyet Fernandez his first ever semifinals loss in his D-League coaching career.
This narrative, though, doesn’t appeal that much to coach Lawrence Chongson, saying, “It’s not about cliches anymore. It’s about us needing to win for ourselves. We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Adrian Santos also helped the Rhum Masters in the paint, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Both Racal and Tanduay can forge a finals duel with victories in Game 2 on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Onwubere, who went 5-of-10 from beyond the arc to finish with 24 points, three rebounds and three assists, paid tribute to the Tile Masters’ coaching staff for keeping their faith in him down the stretch.
“I’m just happy with the confidence given to me by the coaches,” said Onwubere. “I needed to step up. I was making my shots in the third quarter that’s why when I got that chance on the last play, I took the shot.”
Kent Salado also played a solid game for the Tile Masters with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Jackson Corpuz got 14 points and six rebounds.
The Tile Masters finished the game with a flourish, rallying from an 82-75 deficit with 2:07 remaining. But just when it seemed like they were down and out when Ebondo’s triple swished through the net, Onwubere stepped up with the biggest shot of his young career.
The loss put to waste Ebondo’s personal tournament-high 30 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks. With a report from Randolph Leongson, Inquirer.net
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