Cignal, Racal forge championship duel
With their veterans rising to the challenge, top seeds Cignal-San Beda and Racal took contrasting routes to the 2017 PBA D-League finals on Tuesday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The Hawkeyes drew a big game from ex-PBA player Pamboy Raymundo to subdue Tanduay, 88-65, and forge a championship duel with the Tile Masters, who overcame a gritty Cafe France, 78-74, in the other do-or-die semifinal clash.
Raymundo, who was most recently in the NLEX lineup, finished with 17 points on three of six shooting from beyond the arc, on top of five rebounds and five assists for the Hawkeyes, who erased a 10-point deficit in the second period and whipped up a second half storm to take the fight out of the Rhum Masters.
Another veteran also stepped up for the Tile Masters as Allan Mangahas poured 12 of his 15 points in the final period to help Racal secure a first finals appearance since joining the league in 2014.
The former Mapua star, who briefly played for Meralco in the PBA, did most of the damage from beyond the arc, joining forces with Jackson Corpuz and Kent Salado to eliminate the Bakers, who ruled the 2015 Foundation Cup. Mangahas’ last triple with 4.3 seconds remaining proved to be the nail on the coffin of the Bakers.
“I just trusted them,” said Racal coach Jerry Codiñera. “I was fortunate I was able to pick the right people to play in the endgame.”
One of Codiñera’s stalwarts at Arellano U, which lost to San Beda in the finals of the NCAA last season, Salado came through with 16 points, eight assists, and six rebounds, while Rey Nambatac added 11 points, five boards, and three assists.
Interestingly, it will be the standouts from San Beda who are once again standing in the way of Codiñera and a championship trophy.
Javee Mocon, who played a key role in the Red Lions’ NCAA title romp, turned in a solid game of 15 points, five rebounds, two steals, and a block, while ex-La Salle forward Jason Perkins had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Hawkeyes, who rallied from a 26-16 deficit in the second quarter, pounced on the lethargic Rhum Masters in the second half, where they led by as many as 29, 83-54, courtesy of a pair of Andreas Cahilig free throws with 3:17 to play.
“It was a total team effort,” said Cignal coach Boyet Fernandez. “Players believed in the system and they didn’t really want to lose the ball game.”
Cafe France’s loss put to waste another huge performance from Rod Ebondo, who had 26 points, 20 rebounds and two blocks for the Bakers.