CAGAYAN Valley defeated Blackwater Sports, 80-68, on Tuesday to reach the finals of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup, just months after failing to win a single game in its league debut.
Eliud Poligrates had 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists while Raymond Almazan grabbed 16 rebounds and had two blocks for the Rising Suns, who will play multi-titled NLEX in the best-of-three finals starting on Thursday at the Blue Eagle Gym.
Joshua Webb and Mark Bringas each had 11 points while Adrian Celada added 10 points for Cagayan Valley, which advanced to the semifinals by beating sixth-seed Cebuana Lhuillier in the quarterfinals.
It was a satisfying win for head coach Alvin Pua, who was at the helm when the Rising Suns finished the recent Foundation Cup with an 0-9 win-loss slate.
But Pua and the rest of the coaching staff made key acquisitions to turn the Rising Suns into title contenders this conference.
“Sobrang masaya kasi first time ako papasok ng finals tapos ganitong klase ng liga,” Pua said.
“Kung hindi ninyo maipapanalo ito, career ninyo ang mawawala,” said Pua, when asked how he motivated his wards.
Trailing by five points at the half, the Rising Suns outscored Blackwater, 22-14, and never looked back in completing the win against the Elite, who claimed the second outright semifinals berth behind NLEX.
Kevin Ferrer led the Elite with 18 points. With reports from Mei-Lin Lozada
Cagayan Valley (80) – Poligrates 17, Webb 11, Bringas 11, Celada10, Lao 9, Almazan 8, Exciminiano 7, Melano 5, Cruz 2, Pasculado 0, Forrester 0, Montemayor 0
Blackwater (68) – Ferrer 18, Celiz 12, Llagas 11, Mangahas 10, Chua 8, Bagatsing 2, Abdul 2, Vigil 2, Fortuna 2, Ciriacruz, G. 1, Pe 0,Ciriacruz, I. 0
Quarterscores: 21-15, 35-40, 57-54, 80-68