PASIG CITY – Cebuana Lhuillier and Bread Story-Lyceum defeated their favored opponents to force separate winner-take-all showdowns for the last two semifinal berths of the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Thursday afternoon (January 29) at the Ynares Sports Arena. The deciders will be played on Monday (February 2) at the San Juan Arena.
The sixth seed Bread Story snuffed the third seed CaféFrance Bakers, 79-72, and kept the latter still searching for its first playoff win in franchise history. Bread Story thus avenged their 74-88 elimination round loss last December 18.
“No one expected us to be here in the quarterfinals,” said Coach Bonnie Tan. “Perhaps it is a sign that we should win more games before I leave the team after this tournament.”
Playing inspired basketball on both ends after sneaking into the quarterfinals on the last day of the eliminations, Bread Story caught the Bakers napping and managed to erect a commanding 24-point advantage via a 9-0 run to begin the third period behind Jiovani Jalalon and Jackson Corpuz, 55-31. However, the Bakers recovered and outscored Bread Story, 20-3, with contributions by Joseph Sedurifa, Alfred Batino and new acquisition Gelo Alolino from the MJM M-Builders to threaten by period’s end, 52-58.
Maverick Ahanmisi then scored the first basket of the fourth canto to put the Bakers closer, 54-58. Jalalon and Corpuz then bailed out their team anew with eight unanswered points to restore their double-digit lead with 7:41 to play, 66-54.
Alolino and Sedurifa then led one final rally and came to their closest on an Alolino hit entering the final two minutes, 68-70. The Bakers look spent after all that rallying, allowing a Louie Vigil three-point play followed by a basket and four free throws from Jalalon to seal the result.
Corpuz and Jalalon topped Bread Story with 21 points each with Corpuz plucking 10 rebounds for good measure. Jalalon also dished off a team-best five assists.
Ahanmisi scored seven of his 14 points in the fourth period on top of 10 rebounds, three assists and five steals. Sedurifa, who burned Bread Story for 32 points last meeting, had only 12 markers this time.
Later in the day, the fifth seed Gems used a suffocating defense to thwart the fourth seed Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants, 63-53. Although both quintets ended up tied with similar 7-4 win-loss records, the Giants gained the higher seeding through their 63-61 squeaker over the Gems last November 3.
Coach David “Boycie” Zamar used the memory of the loss to challenge his players and they responded. Bucking a slow start after the opening period, 9-12, the Gems turned the game in their favor in the second period with guards Simon Enciso, Allan Mangahas and Paul Zamar combining to build a 31-27 halftime cushion.
The Giants hardly recovered from the Gems’ dizzying second period rampage as the best that they could do was deadlock the count four times, the last coming early in the fourth period, 46-46. The Gems easily countered with Mangahas igniting a crippling 11-2 run capped by a Zamar triple and another Mangahas basket for a 57-48 tally.
New recruit Glenn Khobuntin tried his best to save his new team but the effort fell short as Zamar drained another triple followed by a Norbert Torres free throw and a Mangahas basket for the final score wit still 45 ticks to play.
“We are now beginning to play as a team,” said Coach Zamar. “I told the players to think that we are in Game Two of a best-of-three series and we have to equalize or else.”
The younger Zamar paced the Gems with 14 of his 18 points made in the second half. Mangahas followed with 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Philip Paniamogan connected on two triples as part of his team-high 14 points for the Giants. Khobuntin, who previously saw action for MJM M-Builders, debuted with 12 points and five rebounds and logged the most minutes at 29 in a starting role.
The winner of the Gems-Giants tussle will go on to tackle the undefeated top seed Cagayan Valley Rising Suns in the best-of-three semifinals. The second seed Hapee Fresh Fighters will play the survivor between the Bakers and Bread Story in a similar best-of-three encounter beginning February 5.
How They Scored:
BREAD STORY (79) – Corpuz 21, Jalalon 21, Gabayni 9, Baltazar 5, Mbomiko 5, Daquioag 5, Vigil 5, Lao 3, Bangga 3, Taladua 2, Gamboa 0, Zamora 0, Bulawan 0.
CAFÉFRANCE (72) – Ahanmisi 14, Sedurifa 12, Alolino 10, Cruz 8, Noble 6, Batino 6, Andrada 5, Jeruta 4, de Leon 4, Abundo 2, Galanza 1, Cortes 0, Ebondo 0.
Period Scores: 18-18, 46-31, 58-52, 79-72.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (63) – Zamar 18, A. Mangahas 12, Enciso 10, Ferrer 8, Torres 6, Bautista 3, Villahermosa 2, Guinto 2, Lopez 2, Acibar 0, Vosotros 0.
JUMBO PLASTIC (53) – Paniamogan 14, Khobuntin 12, Rios 8, Sabellina 6, Tiongson 4, Cruz 3, Eguilos 3, Colina 2, Javier 1, Rosales 0, Terso 0, Maiquez 0, Villamor 0.
Period Scores: 9-12, 31-27, 44-44, 63-53.