SAN JUAN City – The Tanduay Light Rhum Masters capitalized on their opportunity to put a foot inside the quarterfinals of the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup by plastering the AMA University Titans, 74-66, in continuing action Monday (January 19) at the San Juan Arena. Earlier in the day, the Rhum Masters received an assist from quarterfinal qualifier Cebuana Lhuillier Gems who walloped Bread Story-Lyceum, 90-78.
Tanduay Light thus finished their elimination round schedule with a 5-6 win-loss card. All is not lost for Bread Story as they can still snatch the final quarterfinal seat if they win their remaining assignment with Racal Motors on January 26 in Marikina City that will tie them with the Rhum Masters at 5-6 and advance due to their 69-64 triumph last November 13.
“My players were motivated today but now I have to try to motivate Racal Motors,” said Tanduay Light coach Lawrence Chongson in jest after the game. “But seriously, we were lucky we recovered and that shows that the team is slowly building character which we need for the playoffs against the higher ranked teams.”
Coach Chongson was referring to his team’s near-collapse after a dominating first half which they handily took, 37-28. Bobby Balucanag and new recruit Jeremy King presided over AMA’s strong third period that saw them hold the upper hand entering the final period thanks to King’s late field goal, 49-48.
Limited to only three markers in the first period and scoreless since, Aljon Mariano scored five straight points in a crippling 17-4 blitz capped with a Jaypee Belencion triple that built a 70-63 Tanduay Light lead with 2:55 to play. The Titans had one last gasp on a King triple at the 1:43 mark, 66-72, but the Rhum Masters’ defense and another timely Belencion basket sealed the win.
Belencion sizzled for 14 of his 17 points in the fourth period to go with five rebounds and two steals. John Foronda and Mariano followed with eight points each with Foronda hauling a team-high nine rebounds.
Joseph Eriobu paced the Titans with 17 points. Jessmar Sabangan followed with 13 points, 11 of which came in the first half.
Already assured of a quarterfinal duel with the idle Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants, the Gems moved to their next goal of gaining a higher seeding and a twice-to-beat advantage. The Gems and Giants are tied at 6-4 and are set to face separate opponents on Thursday (January 22) – should they remain tied, the Giants get the twice-to-beat advantage thanks to their 63-61 escape over the Gems last November 3.
“Consistency is this game’s theme,” said Coach David “Boycie” Zamar after the Gems notched their second two-game winning streak of the tournament. “I also laud the big men for stepping up and playing well today.”
The Gems were totally dominant from the opening tip as starters John Lopez, Norbert Torres and Almond Vosotros combined for 16 points to take the first period, 23-13. The Gems were never threatened for thereon, leading by as much as 26 points, 78-52, on a Mark Sarangay three-point play with 6:23 left in the ballgame.
Guard Simon Enciso came off the bench to scatter four triples en route to 24 points to pace the Gems. Lopez and Kenneth Acibar followed with 10 points each.
Bread Story continued to miss the services of injured ace center Joseph Gabayni as guard Jiovani Jalalon carried the cudgels with 19 points, 11 coming in the fourth period on top of six rebounds, four assists and five steals as he tried his best to rally the team. Louie Vigil supported him with 11 points and eight rebounds.
In the day’s other contest, the third-ranked CaféFrance Bakers primed up for a quarterfinal date with either Tanduay Light or Bread Story by smashing Wang’s Basketball, 68-50. The Bakers thus completed their best elimination round performance in team history with a 9-2 card while Wang’s absorbed its seventh straight defeat to fall further down at 2-8.
“Finally, the team knows how to win,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “Our goal is to first make the semifinals because this is the first time that we will enjoy the twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.”
The Bakers have qualified for the quarterfinals twice as the sixth seed, getting the boot from the third seed immediately both times. They lost to the Gems in the 2012 Foundation Cup, 75-82, and to Blackwater Sports in the 2014 Foundation Cup, 69-89.
Seldom used center Joseph Ryan Celso made the most of the breaks given him by Coach Macaraya to power the Bakers with 14 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Scoreless in three games this tournament, Celso took the starting spot of the injured Rodrigue Ebondo.
Joseph Sedurifa broke out of his two-game mini slump to also pump in 14 points. After torching Bread Story with 32 points just before the Christmas break, Sedurifa could only chip in a combined two points in their last two games against Cebuana Lhuillier and AMA University.
Macky Acosta was the lone spot for Wang’s with 17 points and six rebounds. Mark Montuano was next with only nine points and seven rebounds.
Undefeated pacesetters Hapee Fresh Fighters (10-0) and Cagayan Valley Rising Suns (9-0) will tangle for the top seeding this Thursday (January 22) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City starting at 4:00 PM. The game is seen as a preview of a possible finals matchup as both quintets are already assured of the two outright semifinal spots.
How They Scored:
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (90) – Enciso 24, Acibar 10, Lopez 10, Torres 9, Zamar 8, Vosotros 6, Guinto 6, Villahermosa 5, Ferrer 4, Bautista 3, Sarangay 3, A. Mangahas 2, Banal 0, J. Mangahas 0.
BREAD STORY (78) – Jalalon 19, Vigil 11, Corpuz 8, Mbomiko 8, Daquioag 8, Bangga 7, Bulawan 6, Baltazar 4, Taladua 3, Gamboa 2, Elmejrab 2.
Period Scores: 23-13, 43-31, 69-48, 90-78.
CAFÉFRANCE (68) – Celso 14, Sedurifa 14, Galanza 9, Huertas 6, Noble 6, Andrada 6, Batino 5, Ahanmisi 3, Abundo 2, Cortes 2, Jeruta 1, de Leon 0.
WANG’S BASKETBALL (50) – Acosta 17, Montuano 9, Pontejos 7, Miranda 7, Morillo 5, Morales 3, Montemayor 2, Purdy 0, Acuna 0, Arambulo 0, Lina 0.
Period Scores: 21-8, 35-21, 51-37, 68-50.
TANDUAY LIGHT (74) – Belencion 17, Foronda 8, Mariano 8, Sumang 7, Tagarda 7, Mandani 6, Ilagan 6, Santos 4, Escueta 4, Rono 4, de Vera 2, Jumao-as 1.
AMA COMPUTER (66) – Eriobu 17, Sabangan 13, King 10, Balucanag 8, Taganas 8, Sison 7, Martinez 3, Diswe 0, Rosales 0, Arellano 0.
Period Scores: 17-11, 37-28, 48-49, 74-66.