PASIG CITY – The Cebuana Lhuillier Gems snapped the Cagayan Valley Rising Sun’s 11-game winning streak, 89-85, at the start of the semifinals of the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Thursday (February 5) at the Ynares Sports Arena. In the other series, Hapee Fresh Fighters returned to the winning track by crushing the CaféFrance Bakers, 74-58.
The Gems guards set the tone early as they swarmed all over their Suns counterparts with Almond Vosotros, Simon Enciso and Clark Bautista plus substitute Allan Mangahas scoring from all angles of court en route to taking the first period , 29-10. With the small men doing the damage, it was the turn of big Norbert Torres to assert his might as he scored the Gems’ first six points of the second period before Enciso gave them their biggest lead of the contest, 37-11.
Cagayan Valley found two bright spots in Jason Melano and Don Trollano as the frontline pair patiently tried to reduce their deficit. The Rising Suns managed to inch closer at halftime, 25-47.
Melano and Trollano found help in the second half courtesy of Alli Austria as he began to connect from long distance. The Gems then turned to Enciso who quickly doused the rally with the first eight Gems points of the fourth, 81-66.
Enciso, a balikbayan from California who traces his roots to Bicol and Negros, then added one more triple followed by a Mangahas basket for an 88-75 Gems cushion with 3:30 to go. Cagayan Valley gave it one last push coming to their closest of three points, 85-88, on a John Tayongtong triple at the 18-second mark.
Time was not on the side of the Rising Suns as Torres sank a free throw for the final tally. The Gems can wrap up the series and a spot in the finals on Monday (February 9) at the San Juan Arena.
“I again challenged the players to treat every game as if it was a knockout game,” said Coach David “Boycie” Zamar. “We had a good start but I take full responsibility for losing our big 26-point lead.”
Enciso topped all scorers with 22 points, 11 made in the fourth period while Mangahas chipped in 17 points. “I thank my coaches for teaching me to adjust my game to the Filipino style of play,” said Enciso.
Melano paced the Rising Suns with 21 points while Trollano had a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds. However, the team suffered as top center Moala Tautuaa could only muster five points while the usually prolific Abel Galliguez went scoreless.
Coming off a two-week hiatus, the Fresh Fighters rebounded from their shock loss to the Rising Suns at the end of the elimination round venting their ire on the Bakers. Hapee started strong, 10-2, but the Bakers countered with a 14-2 run to end the opening period in their favor, 16-12.
That was the best that the Bakers could do as Hapee buckled down to work and went on a 10-0 blitz to begin the second period, 22-16, highlighted by a pair of three-point plays by Chris Newsome and Troy Rosario. CaféFrance never recovered and Hapee stretched its lead to as high as 19 points midway through the third canto, 52-33.
“The loss to Cagayan Valley reminded us that we can be beaten anytime,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “We will first view the video of this game and then prepare for Game Two because we cannot take CaféFrance lightly.”
Garvo Lanete was the lone Fresh Fighter in twin digits with 20 points. It was a balanced attack for the rest of the team with Ray Parks and Newsome hitting for nine and Rosario adding eight markers.
Joseph Sedurifa and Rodrigue Ebondo paced the Bakers with 11 points each. The Bakers gambled heavily on the three-point line but could only make five out of 34 attempts.
The Fresh Fighters can also end the series on Monday while the Bakers hope to force a winner-take-all Game Three. The championship series between the two semifinal survivors will likewise be a best-of-three affair.
How They Scored:
HAPEE (74) – Lanete 20, Parks 9, Newsome 9, Rosario 8, Elorde 6, Adeogun 6, Thompson 5, de la Cruz 5, Amer 3, Long 3, Hayes 0.
CAFÉFRANCE (58) – Sedurifa 11, Ebondo 11, Abundo 9, Alolino 7, Ahanmisi 5, de Leon 3, Andrada 3, Cortes 3, Galanza 2, Celso 2, Noble 2, Jeruta 0, Batino 0.
Period Scores: 12-16, 39-26, 58-44, 74-58.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (89) – Enciso 22, A. Mangahas 17, Torres 15, Vosotros 15, Bautista 8, Ferrer 6, Guinto 3, Acibar 2, Zamar 1, Villahermosa 0, Lopez 0, Sarangay 0.
CAGAYAN VALLEY (85) – Melano 21, Trollano 19, Austria 13, Celada 9, Mabulac 8, Dilay 5, Tautuaa 5, Tayongtong 3, Salamat 1, Santos 1, Olayon 0, Flores 0, Galliguez 0.
Period Scores: 29-10, 47-35, 73-64, 89-85.