Cignal took the best dished out by Cotabato and proved again it’s better, carving out a 25-21, 22-25, 25-17, 28-30, 15-7 victory to reclaim the Spikers’ Turf Open Conference crown in record fashion before a big Friday crowd at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
Wendel Miguel grabbed the spotlight in the decider and fired four straight points against the Cotabato Spikers’ lone hit from Jau Umandal as the HD Spikers broke away from a tight 4-3 count and into an 8-5 cushion. Marck Espejo then took over with an off-the-block hit and a stinging kill for a five-point bulge.
It was never threatened as the Cotabato Spikers fell apart with mishits and botched plays, the last a setting error that all but settled the issue, 14-5.
Cotabato saved two championship points but EJ Casana wittingly went to Chumason Njigha in the ensuing play as the former focused its defense on a possible big Espejo closeout. And the Fil-Nigerian delivered a stinging quick hit in an open spot that finished off the Cotabato Spikers, capping the HD Spikers’ unbeaten run since Cignal swept Santa Rosa to kick off its campaign last Jan. 27.
“I give all the credit to the players, and the coaching staff,” said Cignal coach Dexter Clamor after steering the team to its fourth championship. “It’s all about effort and sacrifices kung bakit kami nag-champion.
“We sacrificed a lot this conference,” said Clamor, adding that the HD Spikers’ failed bid in the finals against the National U Bulldogs last year motivated them to reclaim the crown.
The heavy-hitting Espejo finished with 26 points, including 23 kills, while Miguel came away with 16 markers and JP Bugaoan and skipper Ysay Marasigan backed them up with 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Njigha added nine points for Cignal, which also beat Cotabato four times in the conference.
It was a sorry setback for Cotabato, which showed guts and a big fighting heart as it bucked the sidelining of Umandal due to injury late in the fourth as Madzlan Gampong stepped up with a cluster of hits as the Cotabato Spikers overcame a 19-21 deficit without their top hitter to drag the HD Spikers to 16 deadlocks.
Gampong unloaded another hit to shatter the 28-all count then the Cotabato Spikers foiled Miguel’s attack to force a decider.
The HD Spikers, however, banked on their vast championship experience to overpower their rivals in the clutch with Miguel scoring on a kill block, an off-the-block hit and back-to-back kills to give Cignal an 8-5 cushion in the fifth.
Espejo followed up with back-to-back hits and the HD Spikers took the next two points on their rivals’ attack errors then Miguel produced an ace that put the outcome beyond doubt, 13-5.
Umandal actually returned in the fifth set but the former national team mainstay proved far from being his old self although he accounted for two of Cotabato’s measly seven-point output in the decider.
Earlier, Imus-Ivy Tuason Photography smothered Iloilo with an imposing 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 victory and took the bronze medal.
The D’Navigators won Game One of their side of the best-of-three series, 25-21, 23-25, 21-25, 22-25, but the AJAA Spikers grabbed third place honors with a superior set ratio.