AIZA Maizo-Pontillas bailed out Petron as it turned back RC Cola Army, 19-25, 29-27, 25-22, 14-25, 15-12, to secure the second final round berth in the Philippine Super Liga Invitational Conference at The Arena in San Juan on Thursday.
Maizo-Pontillas, who was benched in the later part of the fourth set, came fresh and prepared in the decider as she scored on back-to-back spikes to push Petron at match point, 14-12, before Jovelyn Gonzaga committed an untimely attack error that handed the Tri-Activ Spikers the win.
“Nilalabas-labas ko na talaga si Aiza kasi exhausted na rin para makapagpahinga, tapos ginamit ko na rin si Ces (Molina) pang psy war ko na rin, although ‘di fully recovered sa shoulder injury niya,” said Petron coach George Pascua.
Petron’s new recruits Maizo-Pontillas, Bang Pineda, and CJ Rosario delivered the goods for the Tri-Activ Spikers as they each had 16, 14, and 13 points, respectively.
“Nagje-jell na sila, ‘yung adjustment nila sa isa’t-isa maganda na,” Pascua said.
The Tri-Activ Spikers, who improved to 4-1 to tie the Lady Troopers for top spot, joined RC Cola Army in the final round where they will face Thai guest team Est Cola in a round-robin format.
Petron came from a five-setter loss to Cignal on Tuesday and were on their way to another heartbreaking collapse as the Lady Troopers stormed to an 11-8 lead in the fifth set. But the Tri-Activ Spikers snatched the lead with a 4-0 spurt, 12-11, and clinched the victory thanks to a timely reminder from Pascua that led to Maizo-Pontillas' heroics.
“Sabi ko sa kanila ang makakatalo sa amin is kapag ayaw na namin manalo, ‘yung importante dyan is ‘yung desire mo to win,” said the veteran mentor.
“Walang imposible basta gugustuhin. Give your best and challenge yourself lang kasi ang kalaban undefeated. Lesson learned [din yung talo] sa Cignal na ‘di reason ang huminto. Gawin naming positibo ang pangyayari,” he added.
He also warned his wards not to get intimidated by the former three-time champion and focus on their game plan to bring down the then-unbeaten Lady Troopers.
“May mga instances na sinasabi ko sa kanila na ‘wag kayong ma-intimidate,” he shared. “Basta sumunod lang kayo sa game plan kasi pag natalo tayo, kasalanan ko, pero kapag hindi kayo sumunod, mahihirapan tayo.”
Honey Royse Tubino finished with 20 points for RC Cola Army, while Joanne Bunag added 11. Petron's defense, though, had its way on Gonzaga, who was limited to just eight points, far from her previous output of 22 points against Foton on Tuesday.
“Oo naman, pinaghandaan talaga namin (ang Army). Ang game plan namin is ang depensa lalo na ang blocking na bantayan si Gonzaga,” said Pascua.