SAN JUAN City – The Hapee Fresh Fighters took the vital first step closer towards the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants crown by dumping the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, 82-74, in Game One of the best-of-three championship series Monday afternoon (February 16) at the San Juan Arena. Since no team has ever forced a Game Three in all past finales, The Fresh Fighters are in good position to take home the trophy in Game Two set for Thursday (February 19) at the Ynares Sports Arena starting at 3:00 PM.
Stung by their last-second setback to the same squad at the close of the elimination round, 77-80, the Fresh Fighters started strong behind Troy Rosario, Garvo Lanete and newly-minted tournament Best Player Ray Parks. Showcasing their bench depth, Ola Adeogun and Art de la Cruz later checked in to combine for 13 points in a 15-0 run to close out the first period, 29-10.
Hapee was poised to put the game away early, taking a big 20-point edge on an Earl Scottie Thompson basket, 35-15. While Cagayan Valley’s frontline was churning out their usual numbers, their guards all struggled but they still managed to chip off a bit of the deficit at halftime but Hapee still led comfortably, 45-32.
Suddenly, things got interesting as the Rising Suns found themselves only behind by four markers, the last time on a power dunk by Moala Tautuaa with 3:54 to go in the third canto, 46-50. Hapee quickly recovered with a timely basket by Thompson followed by hits by Adeogun and Amer to restore their twin-digit advantage entering the final period, 67-54.
All the chasing took a lot out of the Rising Suns as Rosario and Thompson helped stretch the lead to an imposing 16 points early in the fourth, 73-57. Despite Cagayan Valley’s repeated attempts to close in, Hapee always had a ready answer.
“Amer and Thompson gave us a big lift today,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “I also laud Ola and Troy for being our workhorses throughout the tournament and I ask them to help us finish the task.”
Coach Magsanoc also explained that they tried to slow down the tempo and the results showed – the Rising Suns output of 74 points was their lowest in the tournament after averaging 92.6 entering the game. Defense has been the Fresh Fighters’ calling card, limiting the opposition to only 60.2 points.
Adeogun survived the tight defense thrown at him to submit his best offensive output of the tournament of 21 points on top of 15 rebounds and three blocks. Rosario ably supported him with 16 points.
Tautuaa likewise had impressive statistics of 16 points and 15 rebounds followed by Michael Mabulac with 14 points. However, the team missed the prolific backcourt trio of Abel Galliguez, Alli Austria and Randy Dilay as they could only come up with a total of six points, a far cry from their combined average of 25 per game.
PARKS IS BEST PLAYER
Before the game, Parks received the Best Player citation from Commissioner Chito T. Salud and Chairman Patrick Gregorio. The son of seven-time PBA Best Import Bobby Parks got the nod upon tabulation of votes from the PBA media corps and Commissioner’s Office.
The 6’3” Parks averaged a team-best 15.0 points over their first 15 games. He beat out the likes of teammate Lanete, the Best Player of last year’s Aspirants Cup with the NLEX Road Warriors, Cagayan Valley’s Tautuaa and Don Trollano, CaféFrance’s Maverick Ahanmisi and Joseph Sedurifa, Cebuana Lhuillier’s Norbert Torres and Kevin Ferrer.
How They Scored:
HAPEE (82) – Adeogun 21, Rosario 16, de la Cruz 11, Amer 9, Lanete 9, Parks 6, Thompson 6, Newsome 3, Elorde 1, Mendoza 0, Long 0, Hayes 0.
CAGAYAN VALLEY (74) – Tautuaa 16, Mabulac 14, Trollano 13, Melano 12, Salamat 7, Celada 4, Dilay 3, Galliguez 3, Flores 2, Austria 0, Santos 0, Tayongtong 0.
Period Scores: 29-11, 45-32, 67-54, 82-74.