MANILA – Petron penned the perfect ending to its quest for redemption by claiming the 2018 Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix crown on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Imports Lindsay Stalzer and Katherine Bell took charge for the Blaze Spikers as they came away with a 25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 25-18 triumph over F2 Logistics in the do-or-die Game 3 of the best-of-3 Finals series.
It was an emotional victory for the Blaze Spikers, who overcame three years of heartbreak in the Grand Prix to finally regain the crown that they last won in 2014.
The win was especially sweet for Stalzer, who was part of the Petron team that came painfully short last year.
"Of course, it feels amazing," said the veteran Stalzer after winning her second Grand Prix crown – as well as her second Most Valuable Player award in the conference.
"Last season left a bitter taste in my mouth," she admitted. "So it's awesome when you set a goal, and you work towards that goal every single day, and it finally paid off."
"It's a great feeling for all of us."
Following their loss to the Cargo Movers in the finals of last year's Grand Prix, the Blaze Spikers kept their core players together. Stalzer joined forces with Hillary Hurley, Rhea Dimaculangan, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Frances Molina, Carmela Tunay, Mika Reyes and Remy Palma, with the goal of ending their three-year title drought in the Grand Prix.
However, the conference did not go exactly as Petron planned. Hurley, their leading scorer, suffered an ankle injury that left the Blaze Spikers vulnerable in the crucial stretch of the classification round and in the quarterfinals against Generika-Ayala.
Thus, the Blaze Spikers decided to gamble and replace Hurley with Bell.
It was a move that paid off handsomely, as Bell led Petron to back-to-back wins over Cocolife in the semifinals, before erupting for 42 points in Game 1 of the Finals against F2 Logistics.
It was the second-highest scoring output in the Grand Prix following the historic 56-point effort of SMART's Cuban import, Gyselle Silva, last month.
"Kath provided an immense support to me," said Stalzer. "Just all the things she said to me, the appreciation and the maturity and the composure that she has – I'm so grateful and lucky that she joined our team."
"She's a freaking high-class, high-level player," she added.
Petron coach Shaq delos Santos said the win came at a perfect time, after three years of failing in the Grand Prix.
"Finally, we made it," said delos Santos, who was an assistant coach during Petron's last title run in 2014. "I don't know what to say, I don't know how to explain this feeling."
"I'm just so happy that we finally achieved our goal and took home the crown," he added.
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.