WITH Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa back in fine form, Cagayan Valley is looking good in its bid to put together another win streak and finish with a maiden PBA D-League championship.
Tautuaa came up with 26 points and 13 rebounds in the Rising Suns’ 98-83 win over Cebuana Lhuillier on Monday, levelling their semifinal series after an 85-89 loss in the opener.
That loss last week ended Cagayan Valley's perfect run in the tournament, and it wasn’t after Game Two on Monday that Tautuaa revealed he suffered from an illness and an injury.
“I’ve been struggling with some injuries from the Hapee game. I had a contusion on my ribs and dealing with bronchitis. That’s what the doctor said. Coach (Alvin Pua) understands that and I had limited minutes,” said Tautuaa, referring to the five-point, 19-minute performance in Game One.
As he bounced back, so did Rising Suns as they forced a deciding Game Three for the right to face Hapee in the Aspirants Cup finals.
“I’m ready to go,” he said, noting the loss in the series opener was a wake-up call for the team after going 11-0 in the elimination round and everyone was eager to get back on track.
Tautuaa also credited Abel Galliguez, Don Trollano, and Andrian Celada, who combined for eight triples in Game Two.
“I trust our shooters. They were going zone and I’m getting double-teamed. It’s a team game and there is a reason why we have the same jersey. When it’s time for me to score, I’ll score. But I want to pass the ball because I trust our shooters. By helping them, it’s helping me,” said Tautuaa.
The Rising Suns big man expects a physical match-up against Cebuana Lhuillier in the deciding game. Cagayan Valley last reached the finals in the 2012-2013 Aspirants Cup while Cebuana Lhuillier’s only finals berth was in the inaugural conference, the 2010-2011 Foundation Cup.
“We are going to work hard. If we get hit, we get hit. That’s how basketball goes. I’m a big guy and I understand how it is. We hope the calls come our way and our shots fall,” said Tautuaa.