CAGAYAN Valley defeated Cebuana Lhuillier 86-82, with Ping Exciminiano and James Forrester providing the big lift as the Rising Suns took solo third place in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup on Tuesday at the JCSGO gym in Quezon City.
Exciminiano finished with 24 points and converted the baskets in the second half that pulled the Rising Suns back in the game after falling behind by nine points.
Forrester, meanwhile, had 17 points and provided the clutch hits to keep the Rising Suns in the lead down the stretch.
The Rising Suns recorded their fourth victory in five outings and sit just below NLEX (5-0) and Big Chill (4-0) in the standings.
Cagayan Valley’s win boosts the players’ morale ahead of their next match against three-time defending champion NLEX, although Cagayan Valley coach Alvin Pua noted the team’s development as a unit hasn’t been as quick as expected.
“Paunti-unti,” said Pua. “Hindi yung biglang angat. Kahit papaano yung quality ng mga players, nandyan na sila pero ’yung as a team, malayo pa.”
The Gems joined Fruitas and Jose Rizal University in sixth place with a 1-3 win-loss card.
Exciminiano led an 8-0 run in the third that enabled the Rising Suns to keep pace with the Gems, who at one point had a 57-48 lead. The former FEU cager's basket gave Cagayan Valley a 69-66 lead.
Forrester broke a 79-79 tie with a jumper with two minutes and nine seconds left in the fourth but the Gems claimed the lead once again on a lay-up by Raymond Aguilar with 1:36 to play.
But after Forrester hit a jumper to give the lead back to Cagayan Valley, Aguilar missed chances to send the game into overtime as he muffed two free throws and lost in the jumpball against Mark Bringas, leading to a fastbreak lay-up by Exciminiano with time winding down.
Cagayan Valley (86) – Exciminiano 24, Forrester 17, Melano 15, Bringas 8, Poligrates 6, Gusi 5, Almazan 5, Celada 4, Lao 2, Cruz 0, Bartolo 0, Webb 0.
Cebuana Lhuillier (82) – Aguilar 20, Zamar 14, Buensuceso 9, Tagarda 6, Custodio 6, Bautista 6, Mabayo 5, Dizon 5, Mangahas 4, Sarangay 4, Leynes 3, Banal 0, Rowe 0, Suguitan 0.
Quarterscores: 19-16; 38-38; 60-63; 86-82.