Go for Gold rode the hot shooting of Matt Salem to score a 96-87 over Marinerong Pilipino-TIP in Game 1 of their semifinal showdown in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Tuesday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The sweet-shooting forward knocked down five triples on the way to 24 points. He also did his part off-ball with eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Jai Reyes chipped in 17 points, five boards, and three assists and debuting Jerick Canada corralled 11 points, six rebounds, and five assists.
Jerwin Gaco, Vince Tolentino, and Kris Porter all scored nine points while also being a solid presence down low with a combined 15 rebounds to help the Scratchers take the opener in the best-of-three series.
"The players played well. I told the players that at the end of the day, it's the players who will win the game. We'll keep it simple and I know the players are talented players. Today, they performed," said coach Charles Tiu.
Tiu picked up two Ts for continuous complaining and was ejected with 7:02 left in the fourth quarter.
His absence fired up the Scratchers. After Robbie Manalang's freebie cut the lead down 74-69, Go for Gold went on a 20-9 run to pull away. Salem's triple capped that run that gave the Scratchers a 94-78 advantage with 1:31 left.
"It's hard to beat a team three times in a row. But luckily, we got away with the win," he said.
The Scratchers seek to advance to the Finals with another victory over Marinerong Pilipino-TIP on Thursday.
Abu Tratter led the charge for the Engineers 27 points and five rebounds while Trevis Jackson collected 21 points, 10 assists, and three boards.
In the other semifinal series, Jeff Viernes waxed hot in the payoff period to rescue Che'Lu Bar and Grill, 112-97, over Centro Escolar University.
The former GlobalPort slasher unfurled 14 of his 21 points in an explosive fourth quarter as he single-handedly kept the rallying Scorpions at bay.
CEU cut a 20-point deficit (79-59) in the third quarter, to just 94-90 with a Judel Fuentes triple at the 3:11 mark of the canto. But Chris Bitoon nailed a 3-pointer and Viernes hit four straight points to give the Revellers an 11-point cushion, 101-90 with 2:17 to play.
"That's always been the problem of this team, complacency. I've been reminding them about that," said coach Stevenson Tiu. "Good thing we're veterans so we did well in the endgame."
Levi Hernandez came off the bench and topscored for the Revellers with 24 points and three rebounds, while Jessie Collado delivered 18 points and five rebounds.
Jay-R Taganas also muscled his way to a double-double of 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
Che'Lu Bar and Grill can sweep the best-of-three series and advance to the championship round with a win over CEU as Game 2 is slated on Thursday.
Fuentes paced the Scorpions with 27 points and six rebounds, while Jan Formento got 17.
The Scores: First game CHE'LU BAR AND GRILL 112 - Hernandez 24, Viernes 21, Collado 18, Bitoon 16, Siruma 11, Melano 6, Sta. Ana 6, Ruaya 5, Taganas 4, De Joya 1.
CEU 97 - Fuentes 27, Formento 17, Rojas 15, Guinitaran 10, Chan 9, Intic 5, Oloume 4, Wamar 4, Ke. Caballero 2, Ko. Caballero 2, Uri 2. Second game GO FOR GOLD 96 - Salem 24, Reyes 17, Canada 11, Gaco 9, Porter 9, Tolentino 9, Publico 8, Banal 4, Wong 3, Pili 2.
MARINERONG PILIPINO-TIP 87 - Tratter 27, Jackson 21, Manalang 11, Napoles 11, Thiele 8, Johnson 7, Medina 2, Enguio 0, Ndiaye 0, Palencia 0.
Quarters: 23-21, 42-37, 68-58, 96-87.