When the time to shine came, Pari Llagas and Kevin Ferrer readily responded to the challenge.
The duo made the key plays in the closing minutes to power Blackwater Sports to an 82-74 victory over Boracay Rum in the deciding Game 3 of their semi-final series on Tuesday at the Blue Eagle gym in Ateneo.
Their scrambling victory earned the Elite a chance to challenge the defending champion NLEX Road Warriors for the PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
Game 1 of the best-of-3 series starts Thursday at 3 p.m. at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
After Jeff Vierness tied the score at 70, the Elite put away the pesky Waves with a 12-4 run in the last 3:17.
After Allan Mangahas broke the deadlock with a free throw, Llagas scored on a soft hook in the lane and Ferrer completed a steal off Sabelina to give the Elite a 75-70 lead with 2:16 remaining.
“I thought that steal of Kevin was the turning point of the game. Once he completed the play, I thought we already had control of the game,” Isaac said.
Mangahas, held to five points on 1 of 11 shooting in Game 2, led all scorers with 22 points. Robby Celiz had 14 while Llagas and Ferrer chipped in 11 apiece for the Elite, who are making their first finals appearance in five conferences.
Justine Chua, who sustained a cut in his head late in the third quarter returned with 7:42 remaining and finished the game with 10 points and 12 rebounds s Blackwater Sports dominated the boards, 47-38.
“I keep telling my boys “to make a mark in this league you have to challenge NLEX.” This is the time to do it,” Isaac said.
Blackwater Sports got off to a good start and led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter.
But as they did in Game 2, the Waves stayed patient and slowly clawed back with tenacious defense and hustle.
Boracay Rum dominated the second and third quarters and was holding on to a 65-63 lead with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter when the Waves started to sputter and miss crucial shots. The Waves committed 5 of their total 18 turnovers in the fourth and made just 4 of 13 attempts in the period.
“I kept telling my players discipline will win us games. I thought they displayed it when the game was on the line,” Isaac said.
It was anything goes after Viernes knocked a 3-pointer to tie the count at 70-all with 3:18 remaining.
But Stephen Siruma was assessed a technical for a delay of game and Mangahas madde the free throw to put Blackwater Sports back on top. Then after Boracay missed on their next possession Llagas scored in the lane over Mac Sabellina before Ferrer capped the rally with a steal and a basket as the Elite took control.
Viernes and Ken Acibar scored 16 points apiece for Boracay Rum but didn’t get enough support. The only other Boracay player in double figure was Sabellina with 12. (Dave Coros)
Blackwater Sports 82 – Mangahs 22, Celiz 14, Ferrer 11, Llagas 11, Chua 10, Bagatsing 8, Ciriacruz 4, Pe 2, Vigil 0, Mangahs J. 0, Suguitan 0.
Boracay Rum 74 – Acibar 16, Viernes 16, Sabellina 12, Fernandez 8, Taha 8, Siruma 5, Rosopa 5, Arellano 2, Eguillos 1, Ilagan 1, Pasculado 0, Tagarada 0.
Quarters: 18-14; 34-37; 55-58; 82-74
Hyram Bagatsing (C) taps the ball away from Jeff Viernes (L) and Raymond Ilagan. Jeff Venancio via http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/311380/sports/basketball/pba-dl-blackwater-book-first-trip-to-finals-withstand-late-boracay-rum-charge