MANILA, Philippines -- Cignal HD avenged its lone loss of the elimination round by sweeping the Sta. Elena Ball Hammers, 31-29, 25-23, 25-18, in Game 1 of their best-of-3 semifinals series in the 2019 Spikers' Turf Reinforced Conference, Thursday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
"Noong game namin sa eliminations, punong puno talaga ng emosyon," said Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor as Sta. Elena dealt his team their only loss of the elims last June 30.
"Siguro ngayong semifinals, in-instill ko lang sa mind ng mga players ko na dapat i-set aside ang emosyon nila, na talagang laruin lang nila kung paano sila maglaro," he added.
Jude Garcia and Ysay Marasigan led the way for Cignal, scoring 13 points apiece.
Coming into the second technical timeout of the third and final set, Cignal already built a commanding seven-point cushion, 16-9. The HD Spikers then pounced on a fatigued Sta. Elena squad and led by as much as nine points. Garcia and Marasigan delivered the final blows for Cignal.
National team mainstays Marck Espejo and Rex Intal provided the spark off the bench for the HD Spikers with Espejo firing 10 markers to go along with 12 excellent receptions, while Intal collected six blocks in limited minutes.
Peter Torres, meanwhile, did not see action for Cignal.
"Unfortunately, hindi nakahabol ‘yung mga players namin sa National Team [sa practice]. Buti na lang nag-deliver, ‘yun ang maganda doon, nag-deliver sila kahit hindi sila nakapagensayo para sa semifinals," said Clamor.
Cignal fought tooth-and-nail as the young Ball Hammers did not go down easily, managing to keep every set within a close margin.
The first set saw both squads reach deep waters. Garcia created Cignal's much-needed separation late in the crucial opening stanza of the game.
Nico Almendras fired 13 points all coming from attacks for the Ball Hammers, while team captain James Natividad provided nine points and nine excellent receptions.
Cignal will be looking to lock up their seat in the finals, while Sta. Elena will try to extend the series on Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m.
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