BLACKWATER simply showed it wanted to make the playoffs more than Mahindra did, hacking out a 108-99 victory in the last day of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup elimination round at the Mall of Asia Arena to clinch a first-ever postseason berth in its young history in the league.
The Elite established a huge 20-point cushion that was enough to weather a late storm by the Enforcers, a fellow sophomore team, to pull off the hard-earned victory in the virtual knockout for the last quarterfinal berth.
Reil Cervantes waxed hot with four of his six three-pointers in the payoff period, but it was Mike Cortez who hit the biggest shots down the stretch to end up resetting his career-high to 30 points for the Elite.
Cervantes wound up with a season-high 24 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
“I’m happy that in our second year, we’re getting results after being a rag-tag expansion team last year,” Elite coach Leo Isaac said. “We’re developing into a team that can compete against top-caliber teams.”
The Elite’s progress will immediately be known as they take on twice-to-beat Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals.
The Enforcers finished the all-Filipino conference with only two wins in their 11 games, but refused to go down without a fight against the Elite as they rallied from an 86-66 deficit early in the fourth.
Aldrech Ramos and Mike Digregorio led the team in scoring and in its comeback as they combined for 17 points in the final frame, where LA Revialla chipped in five points in the last minute to nudge the Enforcers to within five, 104-99.
Blackwater 108 - Cortez 30, Cervantes 24, Gamalinda 16, Lastimosa 14, Dela Cruz 8, Erram 8, Ballesteros 4, Canada 2, Reyes 2, Golla 0.
Mahindra 99 - Ramos 22, Digregorio 20, Revilla 15, Canaleta 12, Dehesa 12, Yee 7, Guinto 6, Pinto 2, Webb 2, Pascual 1, Bagatsing 0, Hubalde 0, Laure 0, Paredes 0.
Quarterscores: 23-26, 51-42, 80-61, 108-99