THE Creamline Cool Smashers leaned on their championship savvy and poise to hack out a thrilling 18-25, 25-16, 25-18, 23-25, 15-6 victory over Petro Gazz to force a winner-take-all match for the hotly-disputed Premier Volleyball League All Filipino Conference crown before a raucous Tuesday crowd at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Cool Smashers came out of a flawed finish in the fourth set with a near-impeccable showing in the decider, racking up an eight-point binge anchored on Michele Gumabao and Tots Carlos to break a 2-2 count, to nab the victory.
Ced Domingo proved clutch, scoring Creamline’s last three points, including a rare run-and-gun hit, a key block of Grethcel Soltones and a two-handed dump after a Petro Gazz missed receive that ended the duel of power and wits that produced thrill and tension from the start.
“We had so many lapses in Game One and there were a lot of things to be fixed. But all our hard work have paid off,” said Creamline’s playmaker Jia de Guzman, who posted 30 excellent hits and emerged as the best player in a match that produced a lot of heroines for the defending champions.
There was Gumabao, whose own three-point blast in the fifth padded Creamline’s 6-2 lead to seven points and whose superb blocking likewise stymied a number of Petro Gazz attacks. Carlos and Jema Galanza were their old fiery selves, soaring and firing away stinging kills, and the rest backed them up with a gritty floor defense and coverage that kept the Smashers in control in the second and third sets and in the decider.
“Hindi na skills ang labanan pero nag-respond naman ang team. Maganda ung pinakita sa 5th set, ung puso, champion team yan kaya hindi sila bibigay,” said Creamline head coach Sherwin Meneses.
Gumabao, however, redeemed herself at crunchtime and finished with a rare top-scoring 21-point output while Carlos flourished with 20 points and Galanza wound up with 17 markers. Domingo ended up with 14 points.