MANILA, Philippines – After a heartbreaking loss in Game 2, Bryan Bagunas and Go For Gold-Air Force made a strong statement against PLDT Home Fibr in the deciding game of their semifinals series in the 2019 Spikers' Turf Reinforced Conference.
The Jet Spikers, seeking back-to-back crowns in the Reinforced Conference, defeated the Power Hitters in three sets, 25-20, 25-23, 25-22, on Tuesday at the Paco Arena in Manila to punch their ticket to the finals.
"Do-or-die game kasi, lagi naman kaming ganun ng PLDT, so sabi ko matira matibay. Kung sino talaga yung willing manalo, yun ang mananalo," said Air Force head coach Rhovyl Verayo.
"Tapos nag-focus talaga kami sa blockings namin, kailangan namin makapuntos sa blocking. Kasi kung hindi, mahihirapan talaga kami," he added.
Bagunas led the Power Hitters, firing 23 points, 22 of which came from attacks to go along with his 19 excellent receptions. Jessie Lopez made it all possible after dishing out 28 excellent sets for the Jet Spikers.
With his squad one set away from another finals berth, Bagunas went all out, igniting a 3-0 run to take an 18-15 edge in the third set.
PLDT, however, did not go down without a fight. Josh Umandal pierced through the block which was then followed by an attack error from Fauzi Ismail which pulled the Power Hitters to within two points, 20-22.
Richard Solis tried to will his team back to the game, but differential hits from Ismail and Francis Saura sealed PLDT's fate.
Ismail tallied 13 markers for Air Force, while Kim Malabunga added 10 points built on six attacks, three blocks, and an ace.
After committing 35 errors in Game 2, Air Force only had 16 miscues this time around.
"Sabi ko nga, kailangan ma-minimize namin yung error, kasi 'yung first game namin is 42 errors, so almost two sets ang binigay namin. Minimize namin the second game, pero 35 pa rin, ang taas pa rin. So ngayon, mas na-minimize ngayon," said Verayo.
Despite bagging the game in straight sets, the Jet Spikers needed to go all out to be able to fend off the upset-seeking PLDT.
Air Force figured in a nip-and-tuck affair in the second set and entered the second technical timeout with a slim 16-14 advantage. After exchanging hits, Mark Alfafara was able to deliver an emphatic kill to take the lead, 23-22.
Bagunas and Malabunga scored the last three points for the Jet Spikers to take 2-0 lead.
National pool members Josh Umandal led PLDT with 12 points, while John Vic De Guzman chipped in eight markers.
Game 1 of the finals is on Friday, July 19, at 7 p.m.
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