ANDREW Estrella played one of the best games of his career in his team’s most pivotal match to carry the Quezon City Capitals to a hard-earned 77-74 win and sweep their MPBL Datu Cup quarterfinals series against the Makati Super Crunch.
Estrella knocked in 15 of his 19 points in the fourth period as he stabilized the Capitals’ solid game, allowing the seventh seeded squad in making a Cinderella run in the tournament by dispatching the No. 2 seed Super Crunch, once the league’s hottest team which won 15 games in a row, but lost back-to-back games in the most important stretch of the tournament.
The Capitals’ small-ball line-up proved to be a cut out to match up with the pressing defense of the Super Crunch, who failed to adjust to the game plan of coach Vis Valencia.
Estrella joined forces with long-time teammate Hesed Gabo and Joco Tayongtong in continuously attacking the gaps inside the run, jump and switch defense of coach Cholo Villanueva.
“We felt we were gaining advantage when Makati decided to match up with us, using a small line-up,” Valencia told BusinessWorld. “That’s not their normal game. They usually have players who have at least the same height, trying to exploit mismatches.”
Estrella’s triple in the last 2:38 mark of the fourth quarter put the Capitals ahead, 71-61, and the team which didn’t even make the .500 mark in the elimination round, was about to complete one of the biggest turnarounds in the tournament.
The Capitals will next face the San Juan Knights-Big J Sports, who had to endure repeated uprisings from the Navotas Clutch before preserving a 75-69 win.
San Juan folks had to hold their breath in the last few seconds of the game when Donald Gumaru completed a steal and had a chance to cut down the Knights’ lead within striking distance. But the two-way guard committed an error by throwing a bad pass on Samboy de Leon, allowing the Knights to escape with the win.
John Wilson sealed the Knights’ win with two free throws in the last 33 seconds for the final tally. — Rey Joble