PASIG CITY – The Cebuana Lhuillier Gems showed no rust from their 18-day break, returning to the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup with aplomb by bulldozing the LiverMarin Guardians, 105-64. The Gems’ seventh win in as many starts assured the franchise of the top seeding and an outright semifinal berth in next month’s playoffs.
The Gems quickly went to work with Norbert Torres scoring underneath, Almond Vosotros draining a triple and Moala Tautuaa swiping the ball and dribbling down the court for a slam dunk and a 7-0 advantage. The Guardians countered with a triple by Choi Ignacio followed a basket by Jovit de la Cruz, 5-7, but that was their last hurrah as the Gems began to go for the early knockout blow.
Tautuaa and Jackson Corpuz continued their hot start and substitute Simon Enciso bombed away from the three-point arc resulting in a 32-point second period for the Gems against only 17 for the Guardian and a 54-31 halftime tally. By the end of the third, the outcome was an almost certainty with Cebuana Lhuillier pulling away further, 81-48.
Despite the sure win, the Gems continued to punish the Guardians into submission. New recruit Roider Cabrera sank four consecutive triples en route to erecting their biggest lead, 102-54.
“This team is still at 60% of what I want them to be,” said Coach David “Boycie” Zamar. “Even if we are the top seed, we look forward to our last two games against Hapee and Cagayan Valley as our true test.”
Cabrera debuted with a total of 18 points, 12 made in the fourth period, and seven rebounds. Tautuaa followed with 14 points and nine rebounds as six other Gems chipped in eight points or more for a balanced attack.
The trio of de la Cruz, Bradwyn Guinto and Michael Calisaan paced the Guardians with 10 markers each. LiverMarin thus dropped to 1-6 and solo occupancy of the bottom of the team standings.
Meanwhile, the CaféFrance Bakers moved a step closer to the other outright semifinal slot by outclassing the KeraMix Mixers in the curtain raiser, 70-65. The now 6-2 Bakers stretched their lead to one and a half games over current Third Placer Cagayan Valley (4-3).
“This win against KeraMix was our ticket to the playoffs while our final game against Jumbo Plastic will be our ticket to the semifinals,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. This marks the third consecutive tournament that the Bakers made the playoffs but they have yet to earn an outright semifinal berth.
Falling behind after three periods, 44-47, the Bakers opened the fourth with a barrage of triples from Maverick Ahanmisi, returnee Eliud Poligrates and Alvin Abundo against a Jesse Saitanan basket to grab back the upper hand, 55-49. Jamil Gabawan replied with back-to-back field goals of his own to threaten, 53-55, but this was quickly neutralized by Rodrigue Ebondo who connected on two free throws followed by a three-point play, 60-53.
While the Mixers would continuosly try to rally, the Bakers always had a ready answer through key hits by Joseph Sedurifa and Ebondo, who scored to make it 67-63, and 38 seconds remaining. The Mixers then threw away the ball, allowing Poligrates to sink a jumper at the 24-second mark to ice the contest, 69-63.
“He (Poligrates) was a big factor in the end game and his experience is a big asset to the team,” said Coach Macaraya. “I have to work on my conditioning first and I hope to help CaféFrance win the championship and for me to make it back to the PBA soon,” said Poligrates who last played for the Bakers in the 2013-2014 Aspirants Cup before embarking on his pro career with Talk ‘N Text and Kia Motors.
Ebondo totaled 10 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth period to go with 15 rebounds and two blocks. Ahanmisi and Jam Cortes were next with 12 markers apiece.
Jiovani Jalalon led the Mixers with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. Keith Agovida was the only other Mixer in twin digits with 11 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Despite having an even 4-4 record, the Mixers are not yet sure of their first ever playoff appearance as they lead idle Seventh Placer Tanduay Light (3-4) by half a game. Both teams will square off on the last game of the elimination round on May 28 at the Ynares Sports Arena.
The ranking are also expected to change drastically once Hapee and Jumbo Plastic, who are both tied for Fifth and Sixth Place at 3-3, catch up in the schedule. Both teams have also recently added new players to their rosters in anticipation of the playoffs, making them dangerous opponents despite their low seeding.
How They Scored:
CAFÉFRANCE (70) – Ebondo 16, Ahanmisi 12, Cortes 12, Poligrates 7, Sedurifa 7, Jeruta 5, Galanza 3, Abundo 3, Noble 3, Andrada 2, de Leon 0, Miranda 0, Batino 0.
KERAMIX (65) – Jalalon 14, Agovida 11, Gabawan 8, DiGregorio 7, Jamito 7, Parala 6, Robles 4, Sinco 3, Gil 2, Saitanan 2, Viernes 1, Ruaya 0.
Period Scores: 15-15, 28-34, 44-47, 70-65.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (104) – Cabrera 18, Tautuaa 14, Enciso 13, Corpuz 11, Zamar 11, Torres 9, Vosotros 8, Bautista 8, A. Mangahas 4, Lopez 4, Acosta 2, Sarangay 2, Acibar 0, J. Mangahas 0.
LIVERMARIN (65) – de la Cruz 10, Guinto 10, Calisaan 10, Ortuoste 7, Costelo 6, Ignacio 5, Fabian 5, de Vera 5, Laude 5, Santos 2, Marcus 0.
Period Scores: 22-14, 54-31, 81-48, 104-65.