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TAT: Zamboanga claws Pola in battle of Filipino clubs

Franky Johnson waxed hot for the Valientes. Wendell Alinea/Zamboanga Valientes (file photo)
By Dugout Philippines

GUANGDONG--Franky Johnson waxed hot as the Zamboanga Valientes fended off fellow Filipino squad Pola Pilipinas RPG, 98-88, for its second win in the opening leg of The Asian Tournament, Wednesday here.

Johnson, a former PBA standout, took charge for the Valientes, firing 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field, including five three-pointers, in almost 24 minutes of action off the bench to help his side advance further in the final phase.

“I think tonight was a really hard-fought win, obviously this is another Filipino team so they are going to come out here and give us their best. Tonight we really played for pride. I’m glad that we are the Filipino team that came out on top. It was a learning experience for the whole team to continue to move forward. We will just go out here and continue executing, keep working on our stuff because now, since these are consolation games, we will prepare for the next (leg) and the next (leg) after that,” Johnson said after the game.

Imports Malick Diouf and Nick Evans also came up big for Zamboanga. The former registered a monster double-double of 16 points and 20 boards while the latter had an all-around performance of 15 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and three blocks.

Homegrown standouts Mike Tolomia and Peter Alfaro added 11 points each to round out the double-digit scorers for the squad in the wire-to-wire win.

The Valientes, armed with an 80-48 advantage entering the fourth quarter, almost collapsed after Pola Pilipinas initiated a searing 32-10 run, which sliced a 32-point advantage to just 10 points, 90-80, with less than two minutes in the game.

However, Diouf and Evans connived with the former scoring on two free throw attempts and the latter delivering a booming triple with 44.9 seconds left to give Zamboanga a 15-point, 95-80 cushion.

Pola Pilipinas managed to trim it down to eight points after two freebies from Joseph Marquez with 12.8 ticks left in a last-ditch attempt to steal the game, but it was not enough as the Valientes ran away with the victory, only their second in the tournament.

Zamboanga broke the game wide open late in the first quarter, with Tolomia, Alfaro, Evans, and Johnson anchoring the Valientes’ 33-12 start which buried Pola Pilipinas early in the match.

Riding the crest of their red-hot performance in the opener, the Valientes turned it up a notch come the second frame and led by 35 points, 52-17, courtesy of an Alfaro triple with 3:31 left in the first half.

Before the match against Pola Pilipinas, Zamboanga finished the pool phase with a 1-2 record in Group B. They took down the Ningbo Bulls to kick-start their campaign before losing to the Taipei Mustangs and the Vantablack Dragons.

The Valientes will battle for positioning on Thursday when they take on the East Sea Pirates at 4 p.m. at the same venue.

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