Foton closed its campaign on a sizzling note as it outmuscled Cocolife, 21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-19, to cop the bronze medal of the Chooks to Go-Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
American import Channon Thompson spewed fire down the stretch to star for the Tornadoes who took their sweet time before going for the kill to essay a strong finish in this prestigious women’s club tourney bankrolled by Isuzu and UCPB Gen with ESPN5 as official broadcast partner.
With the victory, Foton emerged with a bronze medal to match its previous finish in last year’s edition of this battle that also has Senoh, Mikasa, LGR, Grand Sport and Asics as technical sponsors.
But the journey to the bronze wasn’t easy.
After finishing the classification round with a 5-5 win-loss slate, the Tornadoes made an upgrade as they recruited Thompson to replace American Brooke Kranda.
University of the Philippine stars Diana Carlos and Isa Molde came over to power them against Sta. Lucia Realty in the quarterfinals.
Although star Jaja Santiago arrived, Foton still lost to F2 Logistics in the best-of-three semifinals to forge a do-or-die duel with Cocolife in the consolation round.
“(We had) a lot of hardships and a lot of ups and downs. But third place is still third place. We’re still in the podium and that’s really our target. We want to match what we achieved last year,” said Foton coach John Abella, who also came in as a new coach replacing Moro Branislav.
“At least we hit our target. That’s the best thing about this conference.”
Thompson was the star of the show as she tallied 22 attacks, two blocks and two aces to finish with 26 points while Santiago chipped in 23 markers for the Tornadoes, who ruled the Grand Prix in 2015 and 2016.
More than that, she delivered the crucial hits that silenced the torrid assault waged by the Asset Managers down the stretch.
“That’s the reason why we hired her; she’s here to provide leadership,” said Abella, noting that it was Thompson who took the cudgels as the Asset Managers threatened to stretch the match into fifth set after turning a 13-20 deficit into 18-21 count.
“She’s been playing professionally since she was 16 so her experience really carried us in this match.
Serbian Marta Drpa knocked down 20 kills and three blocks while Sara Klisura battled a painful shoulder to submit 14 hits for the Asset Managers, who also matched their fourth-place finish last year.
Meanwhile, Katherine Bell engineered a furious fightback as Petron recovered from a sluggish start to conquer a 23-25, 20-25, 25-15, 25-22, 15-9 victory over reigning champion F2 Logistics in the second game.
A late replacement for Hillary Hurley, Bell was at her best as she delivered the crucial blows for the Blaze Spikers, who drew the first blood in their best-of-three finals showdown.
She tallied 36 attacks, four aces and two blocks to finish with 42 points – the second highest offensive mark since Smart import Gyselle Silva exploded for league-record 56 points.
The Cargo Movers still have a chance to even things out when they march to Game 2 Thursday May 3 at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
“We know the quality of her game and tonight, she showed that she’s up to the challenge,” said Petron coach Shaq Delos Santos, referring to Bell, whose powerful performance in the fifth set completely broke the backs of the Cargo Movers.
May 3 @FilOilSanJuan
7pm @F2CargoMovers vs Petron (Championship game 2. If Petron wins, awarding ceremony will happen after the game.)
All games are live on ESPN5/Cignal’s Hyper. Buy tix at gate or smtickets.
May 5 @FilOilSanJuan (If Necessary)
7pm @F2CargoMovers vs Petron (Championship and awarding)