MANILA, Philippines – Johnvic de Guzman lived up to his billing as the leader of the national team as he led Blue Rajah to a thrilling five-set victory over Red Lakan in the Clash of Heroes event on Monday at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
De Guzman, the NCAA MVP who led De La Salle-College of St. Benilde to a breakthrough title in Season 92, teamed up with veteran Ran Ran Abdilla to lift the Blue team to a 25-27, 255-23, 25-19, 18-25, 15-9 victory over the Red team.
"I told my players to play their best," said national team coach Sammy Acaylar. "Sabi ko lang sa kanila, walang relax, walang bigayan. They have to give their best in this Clash of Heroes."
De Guzman had 19 points, while Abdilla showcased his power en route to a 15-point performance. Dave Cabaron added 13 markers, four of which came off service aces.
It was thanks to Cabaron's spectacular serving that Blue Rajah pulled away in a tight third set, as he fired three aces in a 5-0 run that turned a slim 18-17 lead into a comfortable 23-17 advantage.
However, Blue Rajah fell flat in the fourth frame, with the Red team riding a hot 4-0 start all the way to the win.
Both squads would go back and forth in the fifth frame, but De Guzman anchored a 4-0 run to help Blue Rajah pull away slightly, 8-6.
They broke the game open for good in the crucial stretch, with Abdilla's crosscourt kill sparking another 5-0 run. The Red team did not help their cause as they committed back-to-back unforced errors.
Bryan Bagunas, who showed up to the Clash of Heroes after starring for National University in the UAAP Season 79 tournament, led the Red team with 24 points, 22 of which came off attacks. Former UAAP Rookie of the Year Edward Camposano added 13 points on eight attacks, three blocks, and two aces.
From the 24 players that showed up on Monday, 18 will be chosen to be part of the national team training pool. The pool will be announced by next week, according to Acaylar. The one player sure to be selected is De Guzman, who was named captain of the national team.
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