COMING to the rescue to lead Che’Lu Bar and Grill to a come-from-behind 100-96 victory over Go For Gold, Jeff Viernes attributed it to the Revellers in drawing the first blood in the best-of-five Finals series of the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup.on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Viernes, the league-leading scorer, fired 27 of his 34 points overcoming a 15-point first half deficit, 59-44. But he deflected the credit to his teammates, who closed out the game after he cramped out.
After Viernes nailed the fadeaway jumper over defender Jai Reyes for a 99-94 breather before Paul Desiderio answered it with his own, the Che’Lu Bar and Grill star missed two crucial free throws that left a small window open for the Scratchers with 12.3 seconds left.
Viernes fell down to the floor after the missed charities and could not stand up.
“Before pa lang na itake ko ‘yung free throws, talagang nararamdaman ko na ‘yung legs ko na parang nagnunumb na siya,” he shared. “Nagkacramps na siya so parang nawala ‘yung focus ko sa free throw kasi iniisip ko na ‘yung cramps.”
While sitting on the bench in the dying seconds, Viernes never wavered, confident that his teammates would seal the win.
“Hindi na. Kumpyansa na 'ko, ‘yung momentum was on our side na. Kampante na 'ko, sabi ko etong Game One is napunta samin,” he said.
And the Revellers did it with great defensive plays including one that saw Jai Reyes miss the equalizer before Chris Bitoon sealed the Game One win with a split from the line.
“Buti na lang kahit papano nakastop kami sa defense, and then nafoul si Chris, nakaconvert pa ng isa, and then yun naseal namin yung win,” he said.
Viernes, however, said that they cannot afford to play as sluggish in their Game One performance when they eye a 2-0 lead in Game 2 on Tuesday.
“Hindi namin magagawa to kung ang first half namin, first quarter namin ganun gagawin namin,” he said. “Sa tingin ko dapat sa Game Two kailangan namin magadjust at wag na maulit ‘yung first half para pagdating ng dulo hindi ganito katight ‘yung game.”
“So dapat sa Game Two ‘yan macarry over namin, start pa lang mg first quarter dapat ganun na kaintense yung defense namin para mas malaki yung chance namin makuha yung Game Two,” he added.
Dating back to the past Aspirants’ Cup Finals, Viernes was acquired by Globalport early in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup and he was not able to help the Revellers in their best-of-three title series against Zark’s Burger, squandering their one-game lead to lose to the Pirates in three games.
That’s the bitter past, Viernes wants to erase in eyeing the franchise’s first title.
“Siguro ‘yun ‘yung magiging factor ko ngayon. Nung last conference wala naman ako, ngayon at least marami kami ngayon na magsasabi,” he said.
“At siyempre ‘yung mga natirang players, alam na nila kung gaano kasakit na kahit nanalo ka ng Game One tapos maback-to-back games ka tapos di mo makuha ‘yung kampeonato. Alam na nila ‘yung feeling nun, at alam nilang ayaw din nila maulit ‘yun.”