GAB BANAL had a game-high 21 points, including key baskets in the fourth period, as sixth-seeded Cebuana Lhuillier escaped elimination once again, outlasting Cagayan Valley, 84-83, on Tuesday to set up a do-or-die game in the quarterfinals of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at The Arena in San Juan.
Banal, son of former Alaska Aces head coach Joel Banal, scored seven in the fourth to set the stage for the nail-biting win and extend the Gems’ campaign to one more game this conference.
The Gems meet the third-ranked Rising Suns once again on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, with the winner earning the right to face Blackwater Sports in the best-of-three semifinals.
Cebuana Lhuillier has won its third straight game dating back to when they were 3-5 (win-loss) in the conference and one defeat away from elimination.
“’Yung team namin, mukhang mas gusto ng knockout match-up… Hopefully, we could get over the hump. Lumalabas na ang true character ng team because most of our players are free agents waiting to be harvested,” said Cebuana Lhuillier head coach Beaujing Acot.
The Gems still needed a late basket from Paul Zamar, then watched as Cagayan Valley’s James Forrester missed a free throw that would have sent the game into overtime.
Zamar finished with 14 points, while James Martinez and Paul Sanga each had 12 and 11 for the Gems.
Banal scored four straight points in a 6-0 run which pulled the Gems ahead, 75-66. He also stopped an 8-0 turnaround by Cagayan Valley with a triple to tie the game at 78.
Zamar, who finished with 14 points, gave the lead to the Gems for good with a jumper from the free throw line with 20 seconds in the fourth, 84-82.
Forrester was fouled by JR Buensuceso to earn a trip to the line with 9.4 seconds left but wasted his chance to tie the game when he missed the second free throw. Banal forced a jumpball against Jason Melano with Cebuana Lhuillier winning the tip.
Sanga missed two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining but Rex Leynes grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled. With only 0.6 seconds on the clock, Leynes intentionally missed the second charity.
The Rising Suns, who had 17 points from Ping Exciminiano, saw their 50-42 lead slip away with eight straight points to end the third, relinquishing the lead to the Gems, 69-63.
Cebuana Lhuillier (84) – Banal 21, Zamar 14, Martinez 12, Sanga 11, Aguilar 10, Bustos 7, Custodio 5, Mangahas 2, Buensuceso 2, Rowe 0, Sarangay 0, Leynes 0, Dizon 0.
Cagayan Valley (83) – Exciminiano 17, Almazan 15, Bringas 14, Celada 12, Melano 8, Canta 5, Pasculado 4, Cruz 3, Forrester 3, Webb 2, Poligrates 0, Villanil 0, Lao 0, Montemayor 0.
Quarterscores: 20-23; 42-50; 69-63; 84-83.