MANILA, Philippines – The Tanduay Rhum Masters booked the last ticket to the semifinals of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup following a slim 80-76 victory over AMA Online Education on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Mark Cruz again led the way for the Rhum Masters as he tallied 23 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Jerwin Gaco contributed 16 points and eight boards in the win.
Tanduay advances to meet top-seeded Cignal-San Beda in the semifinals that starts on Tuesday.
"You have to give it to AMA. They refused to lose with their season on the line," said Tanduay coach Lawrence Chongson. "But in the end, my boys managed to squeeze it out, and we gutted out all of the challenges and rallies they mounted."
"What's important is we won the game," he stressed.
Tanduay looked headed for a comfortable win as they raced to a 21-6 advantage, but AMAs Von Tameling caught fire and tied the score at 74 with still 5:31 left to play.
The Rhum Masters left the door open for an AMA comeback as Bong Quinto bricked two crucial free throws with 17.4 seconds left, 79-76.
Unfortunately for the Titans, Mario Bonleon rushed a triple, and Cruz was able to seal the deal with a split at the line.
Tambeling, who was recently signed by AMA from also-ran Wangs Basketball, paced the Titans with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while Jason Riley added 12 points, three boards, and two assists.
Jeron Teng was limited to a conference-low six points, as he made only one of his 15 field goal attempts. He added six rebounds and six assists.
TANDUAY 80 - Cruz 23, Gaco 16, Eguilos 9, Quinto 9, Sanga 6, Varilla 5, Alvarez 4, Santos 4, Palma 2, Villamor 2, Cenal 0, Stevens 0.
AMA 76 - Tambeling 27, Riley 12, Bonleon 9, Taganas 7, Teng 6, Olayon 6, Arambulo 4, Alabanza 3, Bragais 2, Barua 0, Macaranas 0.
Quarters: 25-16, 46-39, 68-62, 80-76.
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