CHERY Tiggo toppled another PVL Open Conference powerhouse in PetroGazz, 25-18, 25-20, 25-22, to seize solo third place yesterday at the PCV Socio-Civic & Cultural Center in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
Jaja Santiago sustained her solid play for the Crossovers with a match-best 20 points, including three blocks, while her elder sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat chipped in 12 points.
Mylene Paat also shone for Chery Tiggo with nine points and 12 digs.
The Crossovers rose to 5-2 to dislodge the Angels, who slipped to 4-2 in fourth place, and bolster their semifinals bid.
Surging Sta. Lucia later made the Final Four race interesting as it kept within striking distance of PetroGazz with a 25-15, 25-12, 25-14 romp of BaliPure.
Winning three in a row – and fourth overall in seven matches, the fifth-running Lady Realtors are just trailing the Angels by half-a-game in the race for the last semis berth.
The Water Defenders, meanwhile, dropped to 2-4, two games out of the No. 4 spot.
Beating the league’s last two champions – Creamline and PetroGazz – in succession, Chery Tiggo has finally shown why it became one of the teams to beat in the bubble after its early season struggles, which includes stunning losses to BaliPure and Sta. Lucia.
“We have some challenges along the way but we were able still work on it. I’m just glad and happy for the ladies that they were able to lead the team and deliver,” said Crossovers coach Aaron Velez.
“There’s still more games and more opportunity, we just have to master and be more consistent on the system,” he added.
Jonah Sabete led the Lady Realtors with 15 points, including two blocks and two service aces, and seven receptions, Dell Palomata had five blocks to finish with 11 points while MJ Phillips added 10 points.
Sta. Lucia mentor Eddieson Orcullo knows that there is no room for error for his troops in the final stretch of the eliminations.
“Ngayon nandoon kami sa punto na yung last two remaining games ay kailangan makuha at makuha yun. Kaya dapat trabaho ng trabaho. Yung dalawang remaining games, for us Sta. Lucia, finals championship game,” said Orcullo, who is trying to address the Lady Realtors’ service receive.
“Alam naman natin na yung previous games natin, tatlong talo natin, service receive ang problema. Kaya siguro masasabi ko ngayon, hindi naman ganun kalinis yung service receive, pero compared before masasabi natin na maganda improvement,” he added.
Velez had a bittersweet feeling of beating PetroGazz coach Arnold Laniog, who was his teammate and later became one of his assistant coaches in College of Saint Benilde in the NCAA.
“The winning and losing is extra for me. Our camaraderie is really way beyond because he’s also my teammate during our college days and we just share our knowledge and is very healthy for us to compete in one league,” said Velez of Laniog.
“Honestly, its overwhelming. I have high respect for him,” he added.
After a 10-block outing in last Friday’s straight-set conquest of Perlas, Ria Meneses tallied two blocks to finish with 11 points for the Angels, while Ces Molina and Myla Pablo each had nine points.