MANILA, Philippines—F2 Logistics forced a Game 3 in the 2018 Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino Conference finals after registering a four-set triumph over Petron at Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday.
Behind superb performances by Cha Cruz-Behag and Ara Galang, the Cargo Movers bucked a slow start for a 21-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-17 victory in Game 2 of the best-of-3 series.
It was Petron's first loss of the tournament after winning its first 13 games, including a 25-23, 25-11, 25-17 triumph over the Cargo Movers in Game 1 last Saturday that put them on the brink of the crown.
But F2 Logistics, which ruled the All-Filipino Conference two years ago, dented the Blaze Spikers' perfect slate to extend the championship series to a decider.
The do-or-die game is at FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan Thursday.
"Siyempre, very emotional ang mga bata (after Game 1)," said F2 Logistics coach Ramil de Jesus. "So sabi ko sa kanila, 'yung lahat ng nakikita niyong naka-yellow dito, 'yun 'yung mga taong umaasa at sumusuporta sa inyo, sabi ko, " 'Wag namang lumabas na kahiya-hiya 'yung laro."
De Jesus noted that several of his players were "off" in Game 1, including Cruz-Behag, Abigail Maraño, and ever-reliable setter Kim Fajardo. In Game 2, however, nearly everyone he sent into the game delivered.
Ara Galang finished with a game-high 20 points, while Cruz-Behag had a terrific all-around performance with 13 points, 25 digs, and 15 receptions. MaJoy Baron (14) and Mich Morente (10) also finished in double-digits for the Cargo Movers.
It was Petron that struck first, however, winning Game 1 behind the tandem of Ces Molina and Aiza Maizo-Pontillas. The Blaze Spikers raced to a 4-0 lead, and though the Cargo Movers rallied back, they were never able to get over the hump.
"Medyo tight noong first set tapos marami pang mga bad calls 'yung referee. Andoon na 'yung momentum, biglang mapuputol ng hindi nakikita," rued de Jesus.
Petron got its groove in the second set, using a stunning 12-1 run midway through the frame to turn a 7-5 deficit into a 17-8 advantage. Galang sparked the run with three straight points, and her strong play rubbed off on the Cargo Movers as Cruz and Maraño also stepped up.
The Blaze Spikers rallied late, coming to within four points, 23-19, but back-to-back kills by Baron slammed the door on their comeback.
"Well, noong second set, medyo relaxed na eh, so sabi ko, masyado lang malayo yung naging score noong first set kaya nahirapan humabol. So ibig sabihin, kaya, sabi ko sa kanila. So, pag-tiyagaan lang ang bawat situation na nangyayari," said de Jesus.
F2 Logistics then displayed its composure in the clutch in the third frame, as the Cargo Movers stood firm after Petron came to within three points, 23-20, after a mishit by Morente. Molina misfired an attack, and Galang ended the set with a clever drop.
The Cargo Movers then scored the last five points of the fourth set, breaking away from a tight 20-17 count. Cruz-Behag capped her strong showing by scoring the final two points of the contest to seal the win.
"Naniniwala ako na it's by God's grace, binibigyan niya kami ng lakas, kahit ano yung mga nararamdaman namin at ano yung line-up namin," said Cruz-Behag.
Molina finished with 17 points to lead the Blaze Spikers, while Maizo-Pontillas had 11 points. Mika Reyes added 10 markers. However, Sisi Rondina, who sparked their Game 1 sweep, was held to only 9 points in an off-the-bench role.
The Blaze Spikers had more attacks, 55-47, but the Cargo Movers' net defense made up for the deficit as they had a 12-4 lead in blocks. They also had more aces (9-2), and had eight fewer errors than Petron (28-20).
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