CafeFrance Locks Third Place

Rodrigue Ebondo was unstoppable in the fourth period and overtime.  (photo courtesy of Dante Peralta)

Rodrigue Ebondo was unstoppable in the fourth period and overtime. (photo courtesy of Dante Peralta)

2014-2015 Aspirants Cup

QUEZON CITY – The CaféFrance Bakers stretched their winning streak to three games and in the process sealed their lock on the third playoff seed of the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach (JCSGO) Gym Monday (January 12) at the expense of the struggling AMA University Titans in overtime, 74-68. The Bakers of Coach Edgar Macaraya will enjoy the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals later this month.

Maverick Ahanmisi converted an off-balanced triple with 10 seconds to play to send the game into overtime, 62-62. Rodrigue Ebondo and Samboy de Leon took over in the extension as they pounced on the visibly tired Titans.

From the contest’s final stalemate at the 3:57 mark, 66-66, Ebondo and de Leon combined for seven unanswered points to finally dispose of the gritty Titans with still 29 ticks on the clock, 73-66. A basket by James Martinez followed by a free throw by Jonar Huertas settled the final score.

From a listless first three periods, Ebondo woke up in the fourth period to unload 11 points plus four more in the overtime to finish with 18 points on top of 10 rebounds and three blocks Ahanmisi followed with 17 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals while de Leon chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Titans bungled a 14-point cushion late in the third period, 43-29, as Ebondo and Ahanmisi presided over the Bakers’ rally that stretched into the final canto. Ahamisi drained a triple with 52 seconds left to give the Bakers the edge for the first time since the opening period, 59-57.

Playing well all game long, Martinez restored the upper hand to AMA with a triple of his own, 60-59, and the Bakers could only cringe as Alvin Abundo missed a running shot in the ensuing possession. CaféFrance was forced to give up fouls to send Martinez to the line but he could only split his attempts to set the stage for Ahanmisi’s miracle shot.

Martinez paced the Titans with 23. Jay-R Taganas had another monster effort with 15 points, 18 rebounds and seven assists.

CaféFrance rose to 8-2 in its best conference ever in league history. Despite the defeat, the Titans are still in the playoff hunt at 3-7 with one more game against Tanduay Light on January 19 at the San Juan Arena.

“It is so tough to win,” said Coach Macaraya coupled with a deep sigh of relief. “I will admit we had a bad practice yesterday and it showed in the first half but it is good that they showed character and maturity by not giving up.”

In other games, the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems enhanced their chances to qualify for the quarterfinals by manhandling Wang’s Basketball, 85-62. Leading all the way from the opening tip, the Gems of Coach David “Boycie” Zamar were able to successfully repel pocket uprising by Wang’s with timely hits by Norbert Torres and Simon Enciso.

“We still have a chance at the fourth seed and the twice to beat advantage but it will depend on other teams winning for us,” said Coach Zamar. “We will always look back as all our four defeats to Hapee, Jumbo Plastic, Cagayan Valley and CaféFrance were all close.”

Torres muscled his way against the smaller Wang’s frontline to finish with 16 points and six rebounds. Enciso submitted a personal tournament high of 14 markers, including two crucial triples in the fourth period that lowered the boom on Wang’s.

Wang’s absorbed their sixth straight defeat for a 2-7 record but still hold on very slim hopes of advancing. Paolo Pontejos and Mark Montuano led Wang’s with 18 points each.

Meanwhile, the MJM M-Builders jumped all the way to Eighth Place of the 12-team standings by thumping cellar dweller MP Hotel Warriors, 93-68, raising their card to 3-6. The loss formally eliminates the General Santos City-based quintet from the playoffs at 1-8.

Trailing by four points, 33-37, the Builders rattled off 16 consecutive points led by Mac Belo and RR Pogoy that continued into the third period, 49-37. That run was sufficient to knock out the wind from the Warriors who were never the same from that moment as the Builders slowly stretched and stretched their lead until the final buzzer.

“The team is a happier bunch these days and are enjoying themselves,” said winning coach Nash Racela. “At the start of the tournament, they were still feeling each other out after playing against each other in the UAAP finals.”

Belo continued his status as the league’s top scorer with a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds. Carl Bryan Cruz provided support with 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench.

Rene Pacquiao was the high man for the Warriors with 14 points and six rebounds. Jessie James Collado was the only other Warrior in double figures with 10, seven of those made in the first period.

How They Scored:

First Game

CAFÉFRANCE (74) – Ebdondo 18, Ahanmisi 17, de Leon 14, Galanza 6, Huertas 5, Batino 4, Andrada 3, Cortes 3, Abundo 2, Sedurifa 2, Jeruta 0, Celso 0, Noble 0.

AMA COMPUTER (68) – Martinez 23, Taganas 15, Sabangan 10, Olivarez 6, Sison 6, Arellano 4, Balucanag 2, Rosales 2, Eriobu 0, Dizon 0.

Period Scores: 9-17, 23-29, 37-45, 62-62 (reg.), 74-68 (OT).

Second Game

MJM M-BUILDERS (93) – Belo 13, Cruz 12, Alolino 10, Pogoy 10, Tolomia 9, Alberto 8, Khobuntin 8, Mendoza 6, Matias 6, Perez 4, Inigo 3, Javelona 3, Neypes 1.

MP HOTEL (68) – Pacquiao 14, Collado 10, Escosio 7, Celda 7, Rogado 7, Yusop 6, Jamon 4, Masaglang 4, Yaya 3, Allen 2, Quiro 2, Hainga 2, Landicho 0, Palma 0.

Period Scores: 19-20, 42-37, 66-56, 93-68.

Third Game

CEBUANA LHUILLIER (85) – Torres 16, Enciso 14, A. Mangahas 11, Zamar 11, Villahermosa 10, Vosotros 8, Ferrer 6, Lopez 5, Acibar 2, Sarangay 2, J. Mangahas 0, Bautista 0, Guinto 0.

WANG’S BASKETBALL (62) – Pontejos 18, Montuano 18, Morales 5, Acosta 4, Montemayor 4, Morillo 4, Miranda 4, Acuna 3, Mendoza 2, Purdy 0, Ferrer 0, Acidre 0, Lina 0.

Period Scores: 15-12, 40-34, 63-50, 85-62.

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About Anthony E. Servinio

A long-time television sportscaster, magazine writer, photographer and college professor from the Philippines finally gives blogging a try after more than a decade of on-line presence. Read on folks!
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