BINAN, Laguna — Gelo Alolino and the Tanduay Rhum Masters really have a penchant for stepping up in do-or-die games.
The Rhum Masters, with Alolino regaining his shooting touch, did it again last night as they foiled the Phoenix Accelerators’ first crack at winning a second straight title with an 89-75 victory that forced their PBA D-League Foundation Cup finals to a deciding third game at the Alonte Sports Arena here.
Alolino sizzled for 26 points after struggling in the series opener while getting plenty of support from former National University teammates Reden Celda and Jeff Javillonar, and center Jaymo Eguilos to set the stage for a winner-take-all match at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the same venue.
Tanduay, one of the first teams to join the league in 2011, is a win shy of completing an improbable run to a first title after finishing just fourth the eliminations, erasing the twice-to-beat advantage of top seed Racal in the semis, and losing 84-76 in Thursday’s Game 1.
Tanduay’s win spoiled the coronation of Phoenix’s Mike Tolomia as the MVP of the conference.
He beat out teammates Alolino, Mac Belo and Ed Daquioag, and CaféFrance’s Carl Bryan Cruz for the first MVP award of his amateur career.
“Siguro yung instinct namin to survive when we’re holding on to nothing except ourselves,” said Chongson. “I’m sure most people have written us off early. Phoenix ang kalaban, suki kami sa eliminations, in a few minutes tinalo kami nung Game 1. Basta sa mga laro na walang bukas dun kami umaahon.”
Alolino, who was held to just six points in the opener, capped off his performance by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer that made it 86-67 with less than two minutes to play.
No stranger to delivering in win do-or-die games, having done so during NU’s 2014 UAAP title run, Alolino is glad to respond to Chongson’s challenge.
“Sinabi sa amin ni coach na yung Game 1 ko nga, talagang medyo kinapos. Biniro niya ako kung saan kukunin yung 20 points. Sabi ko babawi tayo. Happy naman ako na nakapag-deliver ako for Tanduay,” said Alolino.
Playing the supportive role were Celda with 15 points and six assists, Eguilos 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and Javillonar for nine points and five rebounds off the bench.
Ed Daquioag topscored with 18 points for Phoenix, which failed to sweep the series that would have made them the first team since NLEX to win back-to-back championships.
The loss made it bittersweet for Phoenix star Mike Tolomia, who before tipoff was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after getting the nod through votes from the PBA Commissioner’s Office, media, and television.
Tolomia’s performance was a far cry from his 19.9-point average in the tournament, making just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting while dealing with flu.
“Una, masaya ako na nakuha ko yung award. Pangalawa, medyo may halong panghihinayang kasi di namin nakuha yung Game 2. Perfect sana kung nakuha namin,” Tolomia said after the game.
Mac Belo added 16 markers, but was held to just three in the second half. He was later ejected in the fourth for two technical fouls, the second for pointing an accused finger at an official.
TANDUAY 89 – Alolino 26, Celda 15, Eguilos 11, Javillonar 9, Belencion 8, Ferrer 5, Mendoza 4, Lingganay 4, Javelona 3, Santos 2, Tagarda 2, Acuna 0, Gotladera 0, Stevens 0.
PHOENIX 75 – Daquioag 18, Belo 16, Pogoy 12, Tolomia 8, Escoto 7, Tamsi 3, Andrada 2, Batino 2, Inigo 2, Knuttel 2, Mendoza 2, Jamito 1, Colina 0.
Quarters: 21-23; 41-38; 61-56; 89-75.