PASIG CITY – The Hapee Fresh Fighters completed their Cinderella story by winning the 2014-2015 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Thursday afternoon (February 19) at the Ynares Sports Arena. Playing in their very first tournament, the Fresh Fighters went through anxious moments before finally putting away the tough challenge of the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns in overtime, 93-91, and sweep the best-of-three series, 2-0.
Buried deep in the star-studded rotation of Coach Ronnie Magsanoc throughout the tournament, Earl Scottie Thompson reserved his best effort for when it counted most by coming up with a crucial steal from Moala Tautuaa in the extension for an unmolested layup and the lead to Hapee with 22 seconds to go, 92-91.
Not yet done, Thompson again swiped the ball from Alli Austria and was quickly at the nine-second mark but could not make both free throws. Luckily for Hapee, Ola Adeogun hauled down the key offensive rebound off Thompson’s second miss and was fouled, splitting his charities for the final tally.
Fittingly putting the final touch on the championship, Thompson came from nowhere to block the field goal attempt of Don Trollano at the buzzer, sending the Fresh Fighters and their supporters into a wild celebration. “He is the NCAA’s Most Valuable Player, he will always deliver,” said Coach Magsanoc as he described Thompson’s heroics.
Thompson nearly became the game’s goat as he fouled Tautuaa with 10 seconds left in regulation, with the burly Filipino-Tongan center making one of his two gift shots to tie score at 82-82. Baser Amer tried to win the game but his attempt bounced off the rim as time expired.
Hapee’s campaign hit an early snag as tournament Best Player Ray Parks left the game for good due to a dislocated right shoulder after receiving an offensive foul from Michael Mabulac with only 1:38 played in the first period and Hapee ahead, 4-2. Reduced to the role of cheerleader, Parks sat on the bench and provided moral support to his teammates as they battled tooth and nail with their opponents through 16 deadlocks and 22 lead changes.
“I was praying very hard along with every point and rebound made that I felt God was already seated beside me,” said Parks after the game. “I have confidence in my teammates that anyone can step up and contribute and they did together with the coaches, management and even the ball boys, everyone stepped up.”
From a slim 34-33 advantage at the halftime break, the Fresh Fighters threatened to wrap up matters early as Garvo Lanete scattered 11 markers en route to giving Hapee its biggest lead, 63-52. Not giving up easily, the Rising Suns countered behind the reliable guard trio of Abel Galliguez, Randy Dilay and Austria to close in entering the final period, 62-68.
Suddenly, the Rising Suns succumbed to the pressure as Trollano and Tautuaa missed a combined five free throws in the final two minutes of regulation. The Rising Suns and Coach Alvin Pua had hoped to become the first team to force a Game Three but for now the trend of 2-0 finals sweeps will hold.
Thompson finished with only 11 points but his final basket was clutch on top of four rebounds, three assists and five steals. Lanete led all scoreres with 22 followed by double-doubles from Troy Rosario of 20 points and 13 rebounds and Adeogun with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Galliguez paced the Rising Suns with 18 points, including three triples. Trollano was next with 17 silent points.
PBA Chairman Patrick Gregorio presented the championship trophy to team owner Dr. Cecilio K. Pedro. After a five-year hiatus from the mainstream basketball scene, the Lamoiyan Corporation franchise is back in the winner’s circle after a proud history of championships in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
Completing the championship roster are Chris Newsome, Art de la Cruz, Nico Elorde, Kirk Long, Marvin Hayes, Ryusei Koga, Jaypee Mendoza, Mychole Sorela and Arnold Van Opstal. Coach Magsanoc was assisted on the bench by Benjie Paras, Joey Guanio and Xavier Nunag with Bernard Yang as team manager.
For now the Fresh Fighters can savor their championship but there will be little room for rest and recovery. The 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup will blast off on March 12, 2015 (Thursday) with the rest of field hoping to topple the newly-crowned champions.
How They Scored:
HAPEE (93) – Lanete 22, Rosario 20, Adeogun 19, Thompson 11, Amer 7, Newsome 6, Elorde 3, de la Cruz 3, Hayes 2, Parks 0, Long 0.
CAGAYAN VALLEY (91) – Galliguez 18, Trollano 17, Melano 13, Tautuaa 13, Austria 8, Celada 7, Tayongtong 7, Mabulac 3, Dilay 2, Flores 2, Salamat 1, Capacio 0, Santos 0.
Period Scores: 16-17, 34-33, 68-65, 82-82 (reg.), 93-91 (OT).