Marck Espejo led Cignal HD to a 19-25, 25-13, 25-22, 25-21, Game 1 win over defending champions Go For Gold-Air Force to inch closer to claiming the 2019 Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference title on Friday at the Paco Arena in Manila.
Espejo fired a game-high 19 points founded on 17 attacks and two blocks to go along with 18 excellent receptions and four digs while Jude Garcia added 14 markers for the HD Spikers for a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three title showdown.
“Actually, obvious naman slow start talaga [kami]. Siguro kulang sa warm-up," quipped a relieved Cignal head coach Dexter Clamor.
"Both teams naghihintayan e, nagkakapaan kung ano yung lalaruin nila, anong lalaruin namin," the youthful tactician continued. "So kami nung second set, wala kaming ibang ginawa kundi pataasin yung intensity pag pasok ng court, nag-deliver naman lahat."
Ysay Marasigan contributed 12 points while Vince Mangulabanan glued things together for the HD Spikers with 32 excellent sets. Manuel Sumanguid had 18 receptions and seven digs.
After losing the opening set, Cignal came brought the fight in the second frame and pounced on a defenseless Air Force, leading by as much as 12 points to tie the game at 1-1.
The next two sets was a nip and tuck battle with the HD Spikers hanging tougher in the end game of both frames to draw first blood.
Bryan Bagunas led Air Force with 17 points built on 15 attacks and two aces while also tallying 19 receptions. Kim Malabunga added 14 markers on 11 attacks, two blocks, and an ace.
Meanwhile, John Vic De Guzman and Josh Umandal steered the PLDT Home Fibr Power Hitters past the Sta. Elena-NU, 25-22, 25-22, 30-32, 25-18, in Game 1 of the battle for third.
De Guzman and Umandal led the Power Hitters with 13 points apiece with the latter also tallying 19 excellent receptions.
Nico Almendras paced the Ball Hammers with 18 points, 25 receptions, and six digs.
Game 2 of both games are on Sunday.