Armed Forces of the Philippines and Department of Environment and Natural Resources swept their respective semis series over the weekend and arranged what is expected to be an exciting title duel in the 8th UNTV Cup at Paco Arena in Manila.
The top-seeded defending champions AFP Cavaliers outgunned the Judiciary Magis in the payoff period to pull off a tense 72-67 win in Game 2 of their best-of-three semis series.
The win pushed the Cavaliers within two wins of becoming the first back-to-back champions in the tournament for public servants that is being held annually through UNTV President and CEO Dr. Daniel Razon.
Standing in their way were the second-seeded DENR Warriors who bested the National Housing Authority Builders in their own series capped by an 82-75 win – thanks to another double-double performance by MVP candidate Ralph Lansang.
AFP and DENR start their best-of-three finals series on March 1 also at the same venue with the chosen charity of the champion team getting a tax-free P4 million top prize.
The foundation selected by the runner-up gets P2 million while the charities picked by the third and fourth placers shall earn P1 million and P500,000, respectively.
Romeo Almerol, Lansang’s chief rival for the coveted MVP plum, presided over AFP’s onslaught with 17 points and 10 boards while Jerry Lumongsod and Darwin Cordero chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Warriors got off to a slow start but rallied furiously in the second frame behind the red-hot shooting of Lansang and never looked back.
Lansang went on to finish with 25 points apart from grabbing 10 boards.
AFP 72 – Almerol 17, Lumongsod 12, Cordero 10, Rosopa 10, Tan 6, Bautista 6, Quiambao 4, Sergio 3, Zuniga 2, Araneta 0.
JUDICIARY 67 – Salamat 14, Tolomia 14, Dela Cruz 12, Dionisio 11, Marquez 8, Ybanez 6, Mustre 2, Serrano 0, Bergonio 0, Litonjua 0, Malinao 0, Roma 0.
Quarters: 18-14, 33-33, 44-45, 72-67
DENR 82 – Lansang 25, Bangal 18, Gamboa 12, Ayson 11, Rivera 8, Atablanco 4, Abanes 4.
NHA 75 – Vitug 29, J. Dizon 14, W. Tibay 10, Lustestica 10, M. Dizon 4, Mercado 4, Alastoy 2, R. Tibay 2.
Quarters: 18-21, 39-39, 60-54, 82-75.