‘Choco’ gals nail hard-earned win

Choco Mucho’s Denden Lazaro, Des Cheng, Bea de Leon, Kat Tolentino and Pauline Gaston celebrate their victory.

CHOCO MUCHO put up a tenacious net defense in the decider and with three straight block points survived a stubborn PLDT, 25-21, 23-25, 29-31, 25-15, 15-11, on Tuesday to advance to the semifinals of the Premier Volleyball League Open Conference at the Filoil Flying V Arena.

The Flying Titans failed in using their power game against the High Speed Hitters and behind Aduke Ogunsanya, Isa Molde and Bea de Leon, foiled three of their foes’ attacks in the pressure-packed stretch to nail the semifinals sweat-clinching win.

Two of those blocks were on Chin Chin Basas, giving the Flying Titans a 12-9 cushion before Kat Tolentino fired his 19th and last kill as Choco Mucho moved to match point on a Fiona Ceballos miscue.

But just when they thought they had heard the last of the High Speed Hitters, Basas redeemed herself and banged away back-to-back hits. But the Flying Titans found no need to counter with another hit or put another solid defense as Jules Samonte’s backrow attack slammed into the net.

That sparked a wild celebration from the twice-to-beat Choco Mucho side to the delight of majority of the crowd who cheered the Flying Titans no end for their resiliency and determination while acknowledging the High Speed Hitters’ heads-up play all game.

PLDT actually outhit Choco Mucho, 65-62, but the Flying Titans used their ceiling to the hilt, coming through with 10 block points against their rivals’ two while at the same time bucking their struggle on reception that had them yielding 10 aces to the High Speed Hitters.

The Flying Titans, however, pounced on the High Speed Hitters’ miscues and scored 43 while yielding 26 errors of their own.

“When we fell behind, 1-2, I told my players that it will boil down to mental toughness and their faith in the system and in their teammates, which they did,” Choco Mucho coach Oliver Almadro said. “That’s why in the fourth set, they played better and luckily the Lord gave us the strength to win this game.”

The victory sealed a Cignal-Choco Mucho Final Four duel on Friday with Creamline, which dethroned inaugural pro league champion Chery Mucho last Monday, set to face the winner in the last quarterfinals pairing pitting twice-to-beat Petro Gazz and F2 Logistics that was played late Tuesday.

PLDT, which placed third in Group B play in the prelimianries, surprised Choco Mucho with its poise and resolve, fighting back from a first set meltdown as they blew a six-point lead and lost by four, with a big win in the second frame.

The High Speed Hitters then pulled off an improbable escape in the crucial third set that saw them survive eight set points before prevailing in the longest set disputed thus far in the two-week long tournament of the league organized by Sports Vision.

Palomata dumped one to force the last standoff at 29, then Reyes scored on an off-the-block hit on the run and the High Speed Hitters clinched the hard-fought win as Gaston misfired in her attempt to extend the game, her blast failing to clear the net.

“We did expect PLDT to play as hard as it could. Good thing, we have the twice-to-beat advantage. But we didn’t think about it,” Almadro said. “But what’s important is that the team sustained whatever challenge PLDT had put up.”

“It was a test of character when we lost 2 sets. I think we really had built on that…we built on chemistry, we built on heart and we trusted one another to perform at different times,” said Tolentino, who actually struggled in the early going but caught fire in the last two sets. “Because we’re not always be able to rely on our skills, sometimes it’s just heart that brings us to the win.”

Molde also sizzled with 18 points while Ogunsanya stepped up to fire 12 hits and de Leon finished with eight points and Ponggay Gaston, Des Cheng and Caitlyn Viray combined for 16 points.

Four High Speed Hitters churned out double digit outputs to underscore the team’s balanced offensive sock with Basas topscoring with 16 points, Palomata finishing with 15 hits and Ceballos and Samonte chipping in 12 and 11 points, respecitively.

Mike Reyes also scored nine points for PLDT, which dropped to the consolation pool along with BaliPure and Army.


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