QUEZON CITY – The CaféFrance Bakers barged into the win column with a resounding 68-62 thumping of the Tanduay Light Rhum Masters Monday (March 23) in continuing action from the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach (JCSGO) Gym. Later in the day, Aspirants Cup titlist Hapee Fresh Fighters started its campaign on the wrong foot allowing the Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants to escape with the victory, 64-61.
JM Noble and Joseph Sedurifa hit back to back triples to give the Bakers their biggest lead with less than a minute to go in the third period, 52-37. As the Rhum Masters started to rally, Roi Sumang had to leave the game for good after rolling his ankle with still 4:18 in the balance.
Unfazed, Aljon Mariano and JP Belencion continued their fight back with Mariano scoring a basket to threaten with 1:42 remaining, 62-65.
The Bakers then committed a 24-second shot clock violation but the Rhum Masters could not capitalize. Alvin Abundo then hit a coldblooded triple with 10 seconds to go for the final tally and snuff out Tanduay Light’s chances.
“It was a lucky shot and Alvin saved the day,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “After making the semifinals for the first time in the Aspirants Cup, the team is resolved to go all out to better the feat.”
Starting slow and falling after one period, 7-14, the Bakers began the second canto with a 14-0 blast anchored on Noble and birthday celebrant Rodrigue Ebondo to take the lead for good, 21-13. The duo continued their hot plays to stretch the halftime score to 32-23.
CaféFrance now leveled its win-loss card at 1-1 after dropping their first game against Cebuana Lhuillier by the slimmest of margins, 85-86. Tanduay Light also saw its card go to 1-1.
Maverick Ahanmisi made 12 of his game-high 16 points in the second half to go with eight rebounds and four assists. Noble followed with 15 point, eight in the pivotal second period.
Mariano was the top man for Tanduay Light with 22 points and nine rebounds. No other Rhum Master scored in double figures with Sumang submitting nine markers and five assists.
Their partnership with San Beda College terminated before the start of the tournament forced the Fresh Fighters to bring in six new players but had to rely extensively on their old hands. However, their suddenly shallower bench began to show and Aspirants Cup Best Player Ray Parks continued to be bothered by the shoulder injury that took him out of the title game.
Hapee enjoyed the lead for the last time in the second period, 22-17, before the Giants went on a 16-0 tear starring Juami Tiongson and MacLean Sabellina from which the Fresh Fighters never recovered, 33-22. Jumbo Plastic did a good job of protecting their lead despite the constant threats from Hapee.
Compounding the Fresh Fighters’ woes was their poor free throw shooting in the fourth period wherein they missed a combined six gift shots. Earl Scottie Thompson scored to cut their deficit to a point with 43 ticks to play, 61-62.
The Giants bungled their next possession to give Hapee a golden chance with Thompson droving strong to the goal only to see his drop pass intercepted thus forcing Chris Newsome to foul Jaymo Eguilos who made two free throws and stretch their lead to three and six seconds to go, 64-61. With no more timeouts to call, Thompson then hurriedly launched a prayer from midcourt that went nowhere.
“I told the players that this is the best time to beat Hapee,” said Coach Stevenson Tiu. “They are a champion team but they have many new players.”
Tiongson and Glenn Khobuntin paced the Giants with 14 points each. Jumbo Plastic thus joined the Bakers, Rhum Masters and the idle AMA University Titans in a four-way logjam at 1-1.
Thompson, the hero of Hapee’s Aspirants Cup title-clinching game, continued his stellar play with 17 points and six rebounds. Newsome was next with 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“We will just have to work harder in order to get better,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. In the Aspirants Cup, the Fresh Fighters won their first 10 assignments before sustaining their only loss (to Cagayan Valley, 77-80) at the end of the elimination round and then regrouped to win all their four playoff games and the championship in their maiden appearance.
How They Scored:
CAFÉFRANCE (68) – Ahanmisi 16, Noble 15, Ebondo 9, Sedurifa 7, Galanza 6, Abundo 5, Jeruta 4, Miranda 2, Andrada 2, Batino 2, de Leon 0, Cortes 0.
TANDUAY LIGHT (62) – Mariano 22, Sumang 9, Belencion 8, Jumao-as 6, Foronda 6, Eriobu 4, Santos 2, Ilagan 2, de la Paz 2, Tagarda 1, Mandani 0, Cenal 0, Escueta 0, Rono 0.
Period Scores: 13-7, 32-23, 52-43, 68-62.
JUMBO PLASTIC (64) – Tiongson 14, Khobuntin 14, Villamor 8, Sabellina 6, Eguilos 6, Paniamogan 6, Rosales 4, Purdy 3, Avillanoza 3, Perez 0, Petillos 0.
HAPEE (61) – Thompson 17, Newsome 12, Romero 8, Elorde 7, Rosario 7, Hayes 6, Gamboa 2, Parks 1, Villahermosa 1, Long 0, Bringas 0.
Period Scores: 11-14, 33-26, 53-43, 64-61.