REIL Cervantes had 23 points and 10 rebounds, hitting a huge triple in the clutch as Blackwater Sports stayed in contention for an outright semifinal slot with an 85-78 victory over Cebuana Lhuillier on Monday in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Meralco Gym.
Cervantes ended Cebuana Lhuillier’s hopes of a comeback, sinking a 3-pointer over Gab Banal with 41.8 seconds left to lift Blackwater to victory.
Blackwater finished the elimination round with a 6-3 win-loss mark and now hopes for a loss by Jumbo Plastic Linoleum (5-3) to Café France on Tuesday (3-5) to gain the outright semifinal seat.
A win by Jumbo Plastic on Tuesday will move it to a tie with Blackwater Sports but the Giants will gain the semifinal seat due to the winner-over-the-rule.
After criticizing his players last week despite a victory, slamming and breaking a chair in front of his players, Blackwater coach Leo Isaac praised his wards for their composure this time as they held on despite losing a 66-49 third quarter advantage.
“We hope that the best situation will arise for us,” said Isaac. “Pero okay na ako. We are getting there. We are feeling how it is to be a winning team. We expect more improvements in the coming days and hopefully make it to the finals again.”
Despite the loss, the Gems (5-4) will still have a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round.
Gab Banal had 16 points for the Gems but lost James Martinez to a left knee sustained in the third period.
Martinez’s absence appeared to have motivated the Gems as they came storming back in the fourth quarter as they moved to within two points off a lay-up by Paul Zamar, 80-78, with 1:27 left in the fourth.
But Cervantes kept his veteran poise, bouncing back from a missed three-pointer on an earlier play by grabbing the offensive board that led to the game-clinching triple.
Blackwater Sports (85) – Cervantes 23, Ferrer 13, Bulawan 11, J. Cruz 10, Ciriacruz 8, Austria 8, Pinto 7, M. Cruz 3, Manguera 2, Mangahas 0, Hernandez 0, Llagas 0.
Cebuana Lhuillier (78) – G. Banal 16, Zamar 14, Padilla 13, Arellano 13, Gamalinda 9, Acibar 6, Leynes 4, Martinez 2, Ilad 1, J. Banal 0, Noble 0, Mangahas 0, Sarangay 0.
Quarterscores: 24-17; 45-34; 71-58; 85-78.