MANILA -- Akari-Adamson Soaring Falcons took the last outright semifinal spot in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup after holding off JRU Heavy Bombers, 71-64, in the final game of the elimination round at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City on Thursday.
The Soaring Falcons nearly blew a 24-point lead as the Heavy Bombers went on a 24-3 run to cut the lead down to three, 58-55, with about six minutes left in the game.
Jerom Lastimosa and Papi Sarr led Akari-Adamson's final charge as the team fended off JRU down the stretch.
Sean Manganti paced the Falcons' hot start and finished with 15 points, while Sarr added 13 markers and 10 boards as they did not join the Marinerong Pilipino Skippers in the semifinals but also secured the top seed in the playoff phase.
"If you have told me at the start of the season that we'll end up as number one, I'll think you might just be pulling my leg," Coach Franz Pumaren said.
“It's a surprise on our part because we came to the league with the sole purpose of gaining experience here."
Akari-Adamson will await the winner of the quarterfinal series between Che'Lu Bar&Grill-San Sebastian and Gamboa Coffee Mix-St. Clare.
The Coffee Lovers locked the said playoff clash with the Revellers after a 136-90 drubbing of the AMA Titans in the curtain-raiser of the triple-header.
Chris Bitoon dropped 31 points, while Trevis Jackson added 26 as Gamboa-St. Clare locked in the fifth seed in the quarterfinals.
The team will enter the showdown against Che'Lu Bar&Grill-San Sebastian with a twice-to-beat disadvantage, and coach Jino Manansala hopes the rout will serve as a morale booster.
"Maganda ito para sa amin. Ready lang kami kasi alam namin na mabigat ang kalaban sa quarters," Manansala said.
In the other scheduled game, Wang's-Letran withstood Batangas-EAC, 94-92, behind a game-winning layup from Jerrick Balanza, who finished with 26 points.
In the process, CEU fell to the third seed, but the team will hold a twice-to-beat advantage against Zark's-Lyceum in the next round. (PNA)