Criss Cross stuns Cignal to reach Spikers' Turf Finals

Criss Cross stuns Cignal to reach Spikers’ Turf Finals

/ 05:38 PM May 06, 2024

Marck Espejo Criss Cross King Crunchers beat Cignal HD Spikers Spikers' Turf

Marck Espejo and the Criss Cross King Crunchers after beating the Cignal HD Spikers to barge into the Spikers’ Turf Finals.–SPIKERS’ TURF PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Criss Cross defied overwhelming odds to crash into the finals in its Spikers’ Turf Open Conference debut, upsetting fancied Cignal, 18-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22, 17-15, before a stunned Sunday crowd at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

The King Crunchers staged a breathtaking comeback against the favored HD Spikers, overturning a two-set deficit to claim the victory in a thrilling encounter that likewise ended Cignal’s imposing 10-game winning streak.

The match witnessed another intense showdown between two of the country’s top hitters and renowned international champions with Marck Espejo emerging as the hero for the King Crunchers. His stellar endgame play propelled his team to an unexpected triumph, setting up a showdown in the best-of-three finals against the HD Spikers.

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READ: Spikers’ Turf: Umandal, Bagunas power Cignal to finals

Criss Cross tied Cignal at 2-1 at the close of the semis with Game One of the title series set Wednesday at 6 p.m., also at Rizal Coliseum.

The defeat dealt a devastating blow to the aspirations of the D’Navigators, who had earlier lost a five-setter to the ousted Navy Sealions but had hoped for a finals berth following the HD Spikers’ dominant start.

Navy and the D’Navigators begin their battle for bronze at 4 p.m.

In a dramatic reversal of fortunes reminiscent of their earlier encounter in the eliminations, where Cignal mounted a stirring comeback from a 0-2 set deficit, Criss Cross turned the tables in spectacular fashion, executing a remarkable comeback of their own.

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“Bago mag-start yung third set, napag-usapan namin na ie-enjoy na lang yung game. Manalo o matalo, 100 percent kami para at least no regrets,” said Espejo.

READ: Bagunas outduels Espejo as Cignal stays perfect in Spikers’ Turf

The former Ateneo stalwart’s outstanding contribution of 29 points, including 21 on powerful attacks, showcased his prowess on the court as the Korean league champion engaged in a thrilling battle of skill and strategy with Bagunas, matching each other shot-for-shot in crucial moments.

After forcing a fifth set, the King Crunchers trailed the HD Spikers, 11-12, after JP Bugaoan nailed a quick attack.

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Espejo then fired a cross-court hit, igniting a 3-0 swing which put Criss Cross at match point, 14-12.

Although they blew two match points on a Bagunas back-row hit and a mishit from Ysay Marasigan, the King Crunchers displayed grace under pressure.

Espejo rose to the occasion with decisive plays from the back row, the last putting Criss Cross back on top at 16-15.

Cignal did set up another back-row play from Bagunas, a Taiwan league titlist, in the ensuing play, but the determined Criss Cross defense stood firm as Kim Malabunga thwarted the assault, clinching their well-deserved triumph, much to the jubilation of the King Crunchers and their supporters.

“Nung third set may naghihintay lang talaga na mag-spark na mag-enjoy kami sa loob ng court. Yun, lahat naman nag-step up, nasabayan ng performance, yun yung Criss Cross na sistema,” said Espejo, who also finished with four aces and three blocks.

Jude Garcia backstopped him with 20 points and finished with 15 excellent receptions.

Meanwhile, Bagunas’ conference-high 36-point performance, including 34 from attacks, went down the drain as the HD Spikers head into the finals reeling from their first loss in the conference.

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Jau Umandal added 15 points while Bugaoan had 13 markers.

TAGS: Criss Cross King Crunchers, spikers’ turf

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