Defending champion Armed Forces of the Philippines and Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed no signs of rust from a two-week break as they took Game 1 of their respective best-of-three semis series in the 8th UNTV Cup held over the weekend Paco Arena in Manila.
The AFP Cavaliers, bidding to become the first back-to-back champions of the annual tournament for public servants, outlasted the Judiciary Magis, 79-74, while the DENR Warriors clobbered the National Housing Authority Builders, 79-63.
AFP and DENR, which advanced outright to the semis after finishing 1-2 in the two-phase elimination round of the event organized by UNTV President and CEO Dr. Daniel Razon, can forge a title duel starting next week if they prevail anew on Sunday.
In getting back at the team that handed them their only defeat in the elims, the Cavaliers leaned on a well-balanced attack to inch closer to earning another trip to the finals.
In a show of force, five AFP players scored in double figures with Jerry Lumungsod leading the way with 13, Darwin Cordero and Ezer Rosopa adding 12 each, Romeo Almerol 11 and Wilfredo Casulla 10.
Former PH team members Eugene Tan had only three points but produced seven assists, four steals and three rebounds for the Cavaliers who also gunning for their fourth title in the event offering P4 million to the chosen charity of the champion team.
The Warriors, on the other hand, banked on the troika of Ralph Lansang, Melvin Bangal and Ed Rivera to turn what was expected to be a tight contest into a rout.
Bangal and Lansang fired 19 points each while Rivera turned in a double-double of 12 points and 13 boards apart from issuing six assists.
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