DEFENDING champion Armed Forces of the Philippines and Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed no sign of rust from a two-week break and won Game 1 of their respective best-of-three semis series in the 8th UNTV Cup over the weekend at the Paco Arena in Manila.
The AFP Cavaliers, bidding to become the first back-to-back champions of the annual tournament for public servants, outlasted the Judiciary Magis 79-74 while the DENR Warriors clobbered the National Housing Authority Builders 79-63.
AFP and DENR, which advanced outright to the semis after finishing 1-2 in the two-phase elimination round of the event organized by UNTV President and CEO Dr. Daniel Razon, can forge a title duel starting next week if they prevail anew on Sunday.
In getting back at the team that handed them their only defeat in the eliminations, the Cavaliers leaned on a well-balanced attack to inch closer to earning another trip to the finals.
In a show of force, five AFP players scored in double figures, with Jerry Lumungsod leading the way with 13, Darwin Cordero and Ezer Rosopa adding 12 each, Romeo Almerol 11 and Wilfredo Casulla 10.
Former national team members Eugene Tan only had three points but came up with seven assists, four steals and three rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are gunning for their fourth title in the event offering P4 million to the chosen charity of the champion team.
The Warriors banked on the troika of Ralph Lansang, Melvin Bangal and Ed Rivera to turn what was expected to be a tight contest into a rout.
Bangal and Lansang fired 19 points each while Rivera turned in a double-double of 12 points and 13 boards apart from issuing six assists.