By Ivan Saldajeno
PASIG—A first-time PBA D-League champion has been named.
But the legend of Coach Boyet Fernandez continues.
Fernandez solidified his status as the league's winningest coach as he led Cignal-San Beda to the Aspirants Cup title through an 81-78 win over Racal in the final game of the best-of-three finals at the Ynares Sports Arena on Thursday night.
The Hawkeyes fought back from 13 points down and withstood a wild finish to finally grab all the marbles.
Racal took advantage of Cignal's slow start and opened a 42-29 lead late in the second quarter.
The Hawkeyes, however, answered with a 12-1 run that spanned until the third canto to cut the lead to two, 43-41.
The Tile Masters tried to rebuild the huge gap, extending it to six twice, but the Hawkeyes kept on coming back and finally took the lead, 59-58, later in the third.
The match would become tight at the start of the fourth quarter before Cignal scored five straight to open a 75-70 cushion with 3:48 left.
The Hawkeyes appeared to have held on after keeping the five-point lead with less than a minute left, but four straight points from the Tile Masters drew them to within one, 78-79, with 36.3 seconds left.
Jason Perkins, with not much time left on the shotclock, barreled his way for a layup that he muffed, but Robert Bolick was there to grab the offensive rebound and eventually sank two freebies to stretch the lead to three with 4.4 seconds left.
Rey Nambatac tried to force overtime, but he missed a three-pointer at the final horn, sending the Hawkeyes into frenzy.
Javee Mocon tallied 14 points overall in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting with seven rebounds, one assist, one block, and two steals for Cignal-San Beda.
Jason Perkins added 21 points, five boards, and two blocks, while Bolick chipped in 14 points, four rebounds, seven assists, three steals, and two blocks without a turnover.
The victory gave Fernandez, who led NLEX to six D-League plums before joining the PBA, his seventh pennant.
Jackson Corpuz dropped 24 points, nine rebounds, one block, and one steal, while Joseph Gabayni contributed 18 points, nine rebounds, one assist, five blocks, and one steal for Racal.
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