TERRENCE Romeo sustained his dazzling play as Gilas Pilipinas survived Wellington, 84-81, on Saturday to remain unbeaten and virtually secure the MVP Cup title on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The 23-year-old national team rookie continued to show maturity beyond his years, scattering 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback from 13 points down, a fightback reminiscent of their 92-88 overtime win over the Saints in the 37th Jones Cup.
“We knew we were going to have a tough time rebounding the ball and when you can’t rebound the ball effectively, it’s tough to get your running game going,” said national coach Tab Baldwin, whose team had 39 boards, two less than the Saints’ haul. “It came down to hitting our shots and we couldn’t hit our shots.”
“Finally, Terrence got hot,” he added.
Romeo highlighted his clutch play in the endgame with back-to-back triples that gave Gilas its first lead since the first quarter at 78-76, completing a 14-point turnaround.
The Saints took the lead back, but Calvin Abueva scored on a goal-tending violation by the Kiwis, before Romeo sealed the deal with an assist to a cutting Jayson Castro, who finished with a fastbreak layup that made it 82-79.
A win against winless Chinese Taipei on Sunday will secure the crown, but Gilas can also afford a loss if New Zealand loses to Talk ‘N Text in the curtain-raiser.
GILAS 84 – Romeo 18, Blatche 16, Abueva 10, Taulava 9, De Ocampo 9, Castro 7, Hontiveros 6, Intal 5, Pingris 4, Norwood 0, Thoss 0, Ganuelas 0
WELLINGTON 81 – Braswell 25, Edwards 17, Turner 17, Davis 12, Ekenasio 4, Ruscoe 3, Mills 2, Watkins 1, Bloxham 0
Quarterscores: 20-23, 38-42, 54-65, 84-81