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Jaja Santiago, Chery Tiggo move to solo third after stopping streaking Petro Gazz

Jaja Santiago had 20 points for the Crossovers. PBA Media Group

BACARRA, ILOCOS NORTE - Exuding confidence coming off its biggest win yet in the 2021 PVL Open Conference, Chery Tiggo took control of Petro Gazz in the first two sets then rallied in the next to essay a 25-18, 25-20, 25-22 triumph and assure itself of at least a playoff for a semifinal berth, Sunday at the PCV Socio-Civic & Cultural Center here.

The Crossovers came out on top in a third set duel dominated by the Angels until the former overcame a 15-17 deficit and evened the count at 20-all on a Maika Ortiz blast. Not long after, they shattered the tie on Mylene Paat's through-the-block hit then clinched the match by taking four of the last six points.

The victory, their fifth against two losses, came two days after Jaja Santiago and company stopped Creamline in four. While blemishing the defending champions' once-spotless slate remains their biggest win yet, this latest triumph nonetheless steered them to third-place behind unbeaten Choco Mucho (5-0) and the Cool Smashers (5-1).

It also snapped Petro Gazz's three-game run as the Angels slipped to fourth at 4-2, enabling at least three teams to stay in the hunt for the last Final Four seat.

"We have some challenges along the way, but we were still able to work on them," said coach Aaron Velez. "But first of all, we give glory to God and I'm just glad for the ladies that they were able to deliver."

Deliver, they did, with Santiago in particular scoring on a dump after Paat shoved Chery Tiggo on top in the third then brought on the last two points on quick hits that ended the almost hour and a half encounter.

Santiago finished with 20 points, including 16 attacks and three blocks, while sister Dindin Santiago-Manabat fired 12 of her own. Paat added nine markers, while Ortiz had seven points to her name for the Crossovers, who produced 45 attack points, nine more than the Angels.

Ria Meneses fired 11 points, while Myla Pablo and Ces Molina put in nine hits apiece as top gun Gretchel Soltones struggled with just eight markers for Petro Gazz.

Now breathing down the Angels' necks is Sta. Lucia which crushed BaliPure in straight sets, 25-15, 25-12, 25-14, for its third straight victory and an overall 4-3 slate.

Jonah Sabete made her presence felt all over and wound up with 15 points, 11 from spikes and two from blocks, to go along with seven receptions. Dell Pelomata and MJ Philips flanked her with 11 and 10 markers, respectively, as the Lady Realtors moved into solo fifth.

"We are at the point where our next two games are must-win. Those next two games for Sta. Lucia are like championship games," remarked coach Eddison Orcullo as his wards still have fellow contenders Perlas Spikers and Petro Gazz on deck in the week.

In the day's last game, PLDT finally got on the board after blanking Perlas, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21. Isa Molde hammered down the final nail in the coffin of the Spikers and Chinchin Basas stood alongside her as they celebrated their breakthrough win after seven starts.

Perlas, a perceived Final Four contender, just made it tougher for itself to live up to expectations, falling for the fourth time out of five. The Purest Water Defenders, meantime, suffered their third straight defeat after back-to-back wins and also dampened their Final Four chances with a 2-4 card.