SAN JUAN City – Top seed Cagayan Valley Rising Suns forced a Game Three by downing the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems, 98-93, and leveling their 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup best-of-three semifinal series Monday (February 9) at the San Juan Arena. The decider will be played on Thursday (February 12) at the same venue starting at 3:00 PM.
The winner will face the Hapee Fresh Fighters, who claimed the first berth in the championship series by mastering the CaféFrance Bakers in the ensuing contest, 69-56. The Fresh Fighters swept the series, 2-0, after taking the opener last February 5 at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, 74-58.
Seeing their 11-game winning romp ending in Game One, the Rising Suns were determined to bounce back in a big way by erecting what seemed to be a comfortable 12-point lead late in the third period, 78-66. Suddenly, the Gems came fighting back behind Almond Vosotros and Allan Mangahas to tie the game for the first time since 9-9 in the opening period, 83-83, and 6:41 to play.
Atoning for his scoreless stint in the previous game, Abel Galliguez hit a dagger triple to break the deadlock. After another Mangahas basket, that was the cue for big man Moala Tautuaa to take over as he scored Cagayan Valley’s next eight markers as they maintained the upper hand at the 40-second mark, 94-90.
The Gems then began to fire blanks as Vosotros and Zamar missed their triple attempts. The Rising Suns then sealed the deal from the free throw line with Zamar hitting a buzzer-beater triple from the backcourt for the final tally.
Inspired by their 89-85 triumph in Game One, the Gems again started hot anew as Clark Bautista and Kevin Ferrer rained triples for a 9-3 lead. However, Don Trollano and Michael Mabulac combined to seize the lead and pull away slightly after the first period, 27-20.
While both teams played high-octane basketball, the physicality nearly hit boiling point with 3:58 to go in the third. Ferrer was whistled for a technical foul for elbowing prompting Rising Suns coach Alvin Pua to enter the court and confront the Gems forward before cooler heads pacified both sides.
“I do not teach my players to play dirty,” said a very angry Coach Pua after the game. Apparently, the memories from Game One were still there after both teams got into several tense and emotional situations.
Tautuaa topped the Rising Suns with 26 points, equaling his personal best submitted during his debut game against CaféFrance that needed two overtimes last November 20, to go with 13 rebounds and five assists. In Game One, Tautuaa could only come up with five points, his lowest output ever in the tournament.
Mabulac and Galliguez also recovered from their sub-par performances to back up Tautuaa with 16 markers each. Over the weekend, the team travelled by land to Tuguegarao City to grace the opening of the SCUAA Nationals and have a courtesy call on team owner Gov. Alvaro T. Antonio, arriving back in Manila at midnight of game day.
Zamar and Vosotros led the Gems’ effort with 15 points each. Bautista was next with 11 as Cebuana Lhuillier said goodbye to their seven-game winning streak dating back to the elimination round.
Starting slow again, Hapee survived the first period explosion of Baker Samboy de Leon to hold a shaky 20-17 edge. De Leon peppered Hapee for 13 points but timely scores by Ray Parks, Ola Adeogun and Art de la Cruz kept the Fresh Fighters on top.
Determined to extend the series, the Bakers rallied behind Maverick Ahanmisi, Gelo Alolino and Rodrigue Ebondo with Ahanmisi snatching the lead via a fancy layup with two ticks to go before the halftime break, 36-35. The Bakers suddenly lost steam by the second half and Parks and Garvo Lanete took advantage as Hapee began to pull away, 53-45.
Mopping up operations set in early. After Ahanmisi opened the fourth with a triple, the Hapee defense denied CaféFrance a field goal for the next seven minutes translating this into easy scores for Parks and Adeogun as the Fresh Fighters coasted into the finals in their maiden tournament.
“I guess the players were too excited to finish off the series,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “During the halftime break, I talked to them and they were able to remove the excess baggage in their minds and focus on the game.”
Parks had another superlative output with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Adeogun and Lanete supported Parks with 12 points each.
After his 13-point first period, de Leon was silenced and could only make a basket in the second canto for a total of 15 points. Ahanmisi followed with 12 points off the bench.
How They Scored:
CAGAYAN VALLEY (98) – Tautuaa 26, Mabulac 16, Galliguez 16, Trollano 13, Celada 11, Melano 8, Dilay 6, Austria 2, Salamat 0, Santos 0, Tayongtong 0.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (93) – Zamar 15, Vosotros 15, Bautista 11, Torres 10, A. Mangahas 9, Ferrer 9, Enciso 6, Guinto 6, Villahermosa 5, Lopez 5, Acibar 2, Banal 0.
Period Scores: 27-20, 54-45, 78-70, 98-93.
HAPEE (69) – Parks 19, Adeogun 12, Lanete 12, Rosario 7, Newsome 7, de la Cruz 4, Amer 2, Elorde 2, Long 2, Hayes 2.
CAFÉFRANCE (56) – de Leon 15, Ahanmisi 12, Alolino 7, Ebondo 7, Cortes 6, Galanza 4, Sedurifa 4, Batino 1, Jeruta 0, Celso 0, Abundo 0, Noble 0, Andrada 0.
Period Scores: 20-17, 35-36, 53-45, 69-56.