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Cignal on top

Championship poise key to Hawkeyes’ D-League success
By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 11:19 PM April 06, 2017
Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

All those pressure-packed battles the past few years came in handy for Cignal-San Beda College when the going got tough in the PBA D-League finals on Thursday.

Pushed to the brink by a gritty Racal Ceramica squad, the Hawkeyes put together a masterful second half to best the Tile Masters, 81-78, and capture the Aspirants’ Cup at the jampacked Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

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A Cignal lineup bristling with talents from the collegiate leagues played to its potential in a nip-and-tuck fourth period to complete a 2-1 series victory against a Racal squad that got off to a swashbuckling start before fading in the final period.

There was no shortage of championship experience in the Cignal squad and with the Finals decided by small margins, the Hawkeyes’ composure proved to be the difference near the end.

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“I believed in our teamwork,” said Cignal coach Boyet Fernandez, who collected a seventh D-League crown as coach, including six with the NLEX Road Warriors.

No stranger to big games, having played a key role for San Beda in the NCAA finals the last two years, Jayvee Mocon delivered his best performance of the tournament with 25 points, including 14 in the final period.

Playing extended minutes with Fernandez using him as a center, Jason Perkins, who won two UAAP championships with La Salle, went toe-to-toe with Racal’s Jackson Corpuz and still wound up with 21 points.

Robert Bolick, the Aspirants’ Cup MVP, had 14 points and seven assists, and was involved in two of the biggest plays of the game when he collected the rebound off Perkins’ miss with eight seconds remaining, forcing Racal to foul.

Bolick then drained two free throws with four seconds remaining, before Rey Nambatac missed a desperation triple at the buzzer.

The loss will be tough to swallow for Racal, which enjoyed a 13-point advantage late in the second quarter, 42-29.

The Hawkeyes came out firing in the third period with Perkins and Pamboy Raymundo combining for 17 points.

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Down the stretch, however, the Tile Masters wasted a couple of possessions with unforced turnovers.

Raymundo also pumped in 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Cignal, which proved deadly with eight triples, seven more than the Tile Masters.

“I thank them (players) for accepting the system right away,” said Fernandez, who last coached in the D-League in 2014. “They stuck to the system and we were rewarded.”

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TAGS: Cignal-San Beda College, Hawkeyes, PBA D-League
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