Air Force captures second straight title, dethrones Cignal
Mark Alfafara of Philippine Air Force penetrates the block of Ralph Diezmo of Cignal.
Philippine Air Force bucked an early match deficit to complete a series sweep and dethrone bitter rival Cignal with a 20-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 Game 2 win Saturday in the 2nd Spikers’ Turf Reinforced Conference Finals at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
The Jet Spikers captured their second straight title of the season after annexing the Open Conference championship also at the expense of the HD Spikers in the best-of-three series.
“Malaking bagay ito sa amin kasi dalawang sunod na sweep na itong championship na ito sa amin against Cignal eh. At least gumana ang plays na pinaghirapan namin sa loon ng ilang buwan na training,” said Air Force coach Rhovyl Verayo, whose wards fell short of the conference crown last year despite leading the series, 1-0. “Sabi ko nga sa kanila kapag nag-champion tayo rito maganda ang ating Pasko at Bagong Taon.”
National University star Bryan Bagunas came out blazing on all cylinders as he led Air Force with 27 points.
The Finals Most Valuable Player uncorked 24 attacks, a pair of kill blocks and an ace for the Jet Spikers, who turned back Cignal, 25-23, 25-19, 19-25, 25-27, 15-12, last Wednesday in the series opener.
Former University of Sto. Tomas standout Mark Gil Alfafara scored 21 points to support Bagunas while Conference MVP Howard Mojica and Reyson Fuentes, who hammered the championship point, combined for 14 points.
Veteran setter Jessie Lopez again bagged the Best Setter award after dishing out 53 excellent sets in Air Force’s total of 57 attacks.
The Jet Spikers regrouped just in time after yielding the first set, staving off the repeated counterattacks of Cignal. Air Force protected a slim 18-16 lead in the fourth set before breaking into a 24-20 advantage. The HD Spikers saved two match points before Fuentes closed it with a hit from the middle.
“After ng first set sabi ko para kasing tense na tense sila. Gusto nila na kapag tumaas na ang bola, gusto nila na basagin kaagad. Tapos noong nalamangan sila na-pressure sila,” Verayo said. “Sabi ko sa kanila bakit kayo mapi-pressure e tayo ang panalo ng isang game. Kahit matalo tayo dito sa second game wala akong pakialam kasi may third game pa tayo. Pero kung manalo tayo ng second game eh di masaya celebration na tayo. Kaya relax lang. Gawin ninyo lang ang tama. At least naka-recover.”
Ysay Marasigan scored 18 points for the HD Spikers while Lorenzo Capate, who won 2ns Best Outside Hitter, and Edmar Bonono had 13 and 11 markers, respectively.
Meanwhile, Champion Supra captured the third place trophy but not after threading the eye of the needle against a determined Instituto Estetico Manila side, 27-25, 26-28, 25-15, 23-25, 16-11.
Joven Camaganakan and Arjay Onia led the Spikers to a clean sweep of the best-of-three series with 21 and 20 points, respectively, while Ace Mandani got 12 markers.
JP Torres scored 25 points for the Phoenix Volley Masters, who dropped the series opener in four frames.
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