In a slow paced game marred by a total of 63 fouls, the Tanduay Rhum Masters held their ground to stay in the race for a twice-to-beat bonus.
Dropping their first two assignments against formidable foes, the surging Rhum Masters made it three in a row after staving off pesky AMA Online Education Titans, 92-83, in the PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Arena.
“We really need to win if we want to catch up with the top 4. We needed to win today talaga, if we lost, maybe yung top 4 aspiration namin goodbye na ‘yan,” said Tanduay head coach Lawrence Chongson while also noting that they are not yet facing other powerhouse teams.
Ex-UE Red Warrior Pari Llagas paced the Rhum Masters with 18 points, 15 coming off the second half when he took advantage of AMA’s big men in the painted area while Von Pessumal gained his rhythm to close with 16 points and 5 rebounds, his best performance so far.
The still winless Titans managed to stay close before Llagas sank 6 freebies in a 2-minute stretch then Pessumal nailed a dagger trey in the fourth quarter to pull away for good.
With Oda Tampus heating up early, AMA Online even took a 1-point lead at the end of 1st quarter but a Pessumal-led blitz late in the second half put the Rhum Masters in the driver seat.
Titans’ Fil-Am point guard Jerramy King poured 15 out of his 18 points in the second half but could not hurdle Rhum Masters’ lead as they lost 4 key players in foul trouble and tumbled to their 4th straight loss.
“AMA played tough, they pushed us to the limit, to the hilt. Di sila sumuko inspite na iilan lang yung big man nila. And I think we didn’t play well today so back to the drawing board,” said Chongson, hinting that they may still tinker their roster before playoffs.
Chongson did not name any possible player they will add though, citing that it will depend on what position they will need to topple top teams.
“In the next couple of games pa siguro, you don’t want to rock the boat at this time since we have 3-game winning streak but it’s inevitable,” he said. – By Jason Mercene (follow this writer on Twitter: @JasonMercenePH)
Tanduay – Llagas 18, Pessumal 16, Celda 13, Javillonar 9, Belencion 8, Eriobu 6, Tagarda 6, Wetherell 6, Linggaynay 5, Santos 3, Cenal 1, Gotladera 1
AMA – King 18, Jamito 14, McCarthy 13, Tampus 13, de Leon 8, Mendoza 6, Arambulo 4, Castro 3, Alberto 2, Duncil 2
Quarterscores: 20-21, 42-36, 63-56, 92-83