MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Petron Blaze Spikers outlasted F2 Logistics in a highly competitive three-set sweep to secure the 2018 Philippine Superliga (PSL) All-Filipino crown in front of a raucous crowd on Thursday evening at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Blaze Spikers proved to be the more composed team down the stretch of each frame, as they registered a 25-22, 26-24, 25-23 triumph over the Cargo Movers in the do-or-die Game 3.
Petron had seen its hopes of securing a tournament sweep foiled by F2 Logistics in last Tuesday's Game 2, but the Blaze Spikers would not be denied a championship.
"Ibang klaseng hirap 'yung pinagdaanan namin para maipanalo 'yung game na 'to," said Petron spiker Bernadeth Pons. "Kahit straight sets, hindi talaga binigay ng F2. Lumaban talaga sila."
"Nandoon din kasi 'yung effort namin na bawat puntos pinaghirapan namin kasi alam namin na makukuha nila kung di namin paghihirapan," she added.
With this win, Petron has now gained the upper hand in its on-going rivalry with F2 Logistics, winning for the third time in their five finals meetings. This is also their second straight all-Filipino crown, and fourth overall.
Aiza Maizo-Pontillas led the Blaze Spikers with 13 points, while Pons added 11 markers. Skipper Frances Molina had 9 points and 22 digs in the win, which took Petron nearly two hours to complete.
The Blaze Spikers needed a late run to seal a slim 25-22 triumph in the opening frame, but it turned out to be just the appetizer as every set went down the wire.
Neither team could pull away in the second frame, with F2 Logistics seizing a 22-20 lead that was quickly erased by back-to-back points from Petron's super-sub, Sisi Rondina. The two squads exchanged errors for a 23-all count, before Ara Galang came up with a sublime drop that put the Cargo Movers at set point, 24-23.
But Aby Marano sent her next serve wide, and Mika Reyes scored an ace for a 25-24 score. Maizo-Pontillas then gave Petron a 2-0 lead with an off-the-block hit in the final rally of the second set.
Petron built a quick 5-0 lead in the third frame, but the Cargo Movers swiftly overcame the deficit thanks to the Blaze Spikers' own errors. It was a tight contest from then on, and neither team could take control until Petron built a 22-18 lead late through Pons.
But F2 Logistics showed no signs of giving up. A quick kill by Majoy Baron, combined with a mishit by Pons, made it a 2-point game, 22-20. Baron's net touch put Petron within two points of the title, but Cha Cruz-Behag checked an attack off the Petron bockers, and Reyes sent her next hit out to make it a one-point game.
A long rally ended with Petron setter Rhea Dimaculangan taking matters into her own hands for a 1-2 play that put Petron at championship point, 24-22. However, she committed a service error to open the next rally, keeping F2 Logistics alive.
Both teams displayed tremendous guts in the final rally of the match, but ultimately it was an error that proved to be F2 Logistics' undoing. Libero Dawn Macandili was called for a double-contact while going for a dig, giving Petron the winning point.
"Talagang naghirap kami para matalo sila," said Pons, who was also credited with four excellent receptions in the game.
The Blaze Spikers unleashed 45 kills against only 29 for F2 Logistics, though the Cargo Movers tried to make up for it with their net defense, registering 10 kill blocks.
Galang and Cruz-Behag each scored 10 points for the Cargo Movers, but no other F2 Logistics players reached double-digits. Macandili and Michelle Morente shored up their defense, with 25 and 18 digs, respectively.
This marks the fifth championship meeting between the two franchises. Petron won the first encounter in the 2017 All-Filipino Cup, before F2 Logistics stunned them with an epic comeback in the 2017 Grand Prix.
The Blaze Spikers got their revenge in the 2018 Grand Prix, but the Cargo Movers tied their series by dominating the Invitational Conference earlier this year.
"Sobrang special kasi natalo nila kami noon Invitational. Ito 'yung naging chance namin makabawi and ma-defend 'yung crown," said Pons.
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