Creamline found no need to count on import Yeliz Basa as its all-Filipino crew proved enough to blast Chery Tiggo, 25-22, 22-25, 25-5, 25-19, as the Cool Smashers moved a win from clinching the bronze in the Premier Volleyball League Reinforced Conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Thursday.
Coach Sherwin Meneses kept Basa on the bench due to injury and the locals stepped up to anchor the team’s romp over the very same team that ended their record grand slam bid last Tuesday.
Tots Carlos started in place of their Turkish reinforcement and didn’t disappoint, unleashing an 18-kill game to finish with 19 points while four others churned out double-digit scores for the Cool Smashers, who needed to win in 3 or 4 sets over the Crossovers the last time out but were dragged into a five-set battle that paved the way for the Cignal-Petro Gazz title duel.
Top middle Ced Domingo also didn’t suit up for Creamline.
But the rest of the locals still dished out their best in the bronze medal clash with Alyssa Valdez scoring 16 points, Pangs Panaga dominating the middle and finishing with 14 points, spiked by nine blocks, while drawing inspiration from mom’s rare presence at the Big Dome, and Jema Galanza adding 10 markers.
Panaga’s nine-block effort matched the season-high mark posted by Cignal’s Roselyn Doria in the Invitational Conference.
But it was Michele Gumabao who made the biggest impact as she banged in 11 points, delivering quality shots each time she would step into the court with her last three straight hits closing out the one-hour, 54-minute encounter.
“We’re super happy and we really played well,” said Carlos, adding that the team had kept the good vibes going despite falling short of their record bid. “We’re grateful for the win – for all our supporters.”
The Open Conference and Invitational champions also rode on their record run in the third set that saw them rack up 11 straight points on solid blocking and steady serves on their way to posting a huge 20-point margin.
The Crossovers tried to redeem themselves from that stupor and took an 8-4 lead in the fourth but Valdez, Panaga and Carlos rallied the team to seize a 22-19 lead before Gumabao unloaded a kill, a crosscourt blast and an off-the-block hit to finish off the league’s inaugural pro season champions.
“Masaya kami, naka-recover kami na hindi kami nakalaro sa finals,” said Meneses. “Siguro yung break napunta sa amin kasi medyo gumanda yung blocking at serve namin sa set 3.”
Roselle Baliton topscored for Chery Tiggo with 10 points, including five blocks, while import Jelena Cvijovic finished with nine markers and EJ Laure added eight points, 27 excellent receptions and 14 digs.