PNP’s Alejandro Yanquiling III (#26) tries to get past Rob Wainwright (#5) of the BFP Firefighters during the opener of UNTV Cup Season 6 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. (Photo by Madz Milana)
Two-time MVP Ollan Omiping scored 23 points including five triples to help the defending champions PNP Responders earn a hard-fought 87-79 win over the gritty Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Firefighters in the UNTV Cup Season 6 opener at Smart-Araneta Coliseum last Tuesday.
Leading by nine points with less than three minutes to play in the final frame, the Responders were able to hold off a 9-3 rally by the Firefighters after Rob Wainwright hit consecutive triples to cut the deficit to just three, 79-82.
The defending champs answered back with their own 5-0 blast to finally seal the victory as they aim to be the first team in the league to win back-to-back championships.
Anton Tolentino added 18 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists while Rodel Ongutan delivered 12 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block.
PNP led by as much as 15 points in the third canto despite missing the services of veteran Julius Criste due to injury and last season’s Finals MVP Harold Sta. Cruz.
“Our mission is to defend the championship. We’ve just shown the team’s camaraderie, that we know each other’s play and that even if we’re undermanned, all of us will step up,” said Omiping.
Moreover, the BFP Firefighters were led by Kurt Amores and ex-pro player Rob Wainwright after finishing with 23 and 21 points respectively.
“What we lack is team chemistry since we’ve got new players in the group,” said Gilbert Malabanan who scored 7 points and 4 rebounds for the Firefighters.
The PNP Responders was off to a hot start after leading by eight points in the opening quarter, 12-4 courtesy of triples from Omiping and Cabrera.
BFP stayed within striking distance with Jayona leading the Firefighters with five-straight points to end the first quarter trailing by just three, 20-23.
Omiping scored four 3-pointers in the second quarter to pull away from the Firefighters, 35-21 with 5:16 to play but Amores managed to trade baskets with the two-time MVP to cut the deficit to just ten, 37-47 going into the second half.
PNP Responders – 87
Omiping 23, Tolentino 18, Ongutan 12, Cabahug 10, Cabrera 7, Yanquiling 4, Abaya 4, Elopre 3, Bayabao 2, Decena 0
BFP Firefighters – 79
Amores 23, Wainwright 21, Jayona 15, Malabanan 7, Macato 6, Cabais 5, Marquez 2, Molina 0, Namia 0, Gamboa 0, Sibal 0
Scores: 23-20, 47-37, 67-52, 87-79
By: John Kenneth Jaramilla