PASIG CITY – The race for the second outright semifinal berth got a bit more interesting as chasers Cagayan Valley Rising Suns and Hapee Fresh Fighters fashioned convincing victories over separate rivals Thursday (May 14) at the resumption of the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena. The undefeated Cebuana Lhuillier Gems (7-0) are assured of the first spot regardless of the outcome of their two remaining assignments.
While the Rising Suns were clinical in their demolition of the LiverMarin Guardians, 106-94, their coach Alvin Pua became the biggest newsmaker after he was ejected from the game for physically contacting a referee while protesting a call with only 1:39 remaining in the first half and Rising Suns on top, 47-41. Sans their coach and with team consultant Francis Rodriguez taking over, Cagayan Valley shifted to high gear and unloaded 32 points in the third period to match their biggest lead of the game, 79-65.
The Guardians opted to engage the Rising Suns in a shootout and the latter responded with Abel Galliguez knocking in 10 of his 15 points in the fourth period to scuttle all of the Guardians’ rallies. Choi Ignacio tried his best to close the gap but Cagayan Valley always had a ready counter move to raise their win-loss card to 5-3, a game behind the second-running CaféFrance Bakers (6-2).
“Yes, we are still thinking about making the semifinals,” said Coach Rodriguez as he refused to comment further on Coach Pua’s ejection. “This win is very important for us.”
A total of six Rising Suns scored in double figures led by Don Trollano with 17 and Michael Mabulac with 16 plus eight rebounds. Jason Melano also had a good stat line with 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
With their seventh loss in eight games, LiverMarin became the first team to be formally eliminated from playoff contention. Jovit de la Cruz and Bradwyn Guinto paced the Guardians with 19 and 16 markers respectively.
In the second game, the Fresh Fighters experienced a few scares before finally running away from the Tanduay Light Rhum Masters, 88-75. Playing their second game with the San Beda College players back in the roster, Hapee gave glimpses of what their opponents could expect in the playoffs as they moved to 4-3 and provisional Fourth Place.
“Entering the quarterfinals is enough for us,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. The 2014-2015 Aspirants Cup champions were 2-3 and on a two-game slump and in danger of missing the playoffs before the Bedans were recalled.
Missing the last game due to injury, Baser Amer finally made his tournament debut by coming off the bench midway in the first period to score nine unanswered points and turn the game in Hapee’s favor for good, 16-6. From there, the Fresh Fighters patiently increased their cushion to as high as 25 points in the third period, 61-36, on a five-point cluster by Amer.
Hanging on dim hopes for the playoffs, the Rhum Masters responded with a 15-4 run highlighted by a barrage of three triples by Jaypee Belencion and two more from Aljon Mariano to close in entering the final canto, 51-65.
Belencion continued his hot shooting into the fourth with two more triples plus a rare four-point play that put Tanduay Light at their closest, 70-80, and 1:39 on the clock. However, time was not on the side of the Rhum Masters as Troy Rosario, Amer and Ray Parks preserved the win from the free throw line.
Amer finished with 24 points. Chris Newsome and Ola Adeogun supported him with 10 points each and a combined 11 rebounds.
Belencion scored 19 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to go with five rebounds and four assists. Kris Rosales hit a career-high 11 points, the same output as Mariano as Tanduay Light slid to 3-5, a full game behind idle Jumbo Plastic (4-4) for the sixth and final playoff berth.
How They Scored:
CAGAYAN VALLEY (106) – Trollano 17, Mabulac 16, Galliguez 15, Dilay 13, Melano 13, Celada 12, Magat 6, Rogado 5, Austria 4, Flores 4, Tayongtong 1, Salamat 0, Santos 0.
LIVERMARIN (94) – de la Cruz 19, Guinto 16, Bangga 13, Ignacio 12, Balucanag 9, Ortuoste 8, Fabian 7, Santos 5, Costelo 3, de Vera 2, Marcus 0, Calisaan 0, Laude 0.
Period Scores: 30-20, 47-44, 79-65, 106-94.
HAPEE (88) – Amer 24, Adeogun 10, Newsome 10, Parks 9, Long 8, Koga 8, de la Cruz 6, Thompson 5, Rosario 4, Elorde 2, Romero 2.
TANDUAY LIGHT (75) – Belencion 21, Rosales 11, Mariano 11, Escueta 7, Santos 6, Sumang 5, Eriobu 5, Rono 3, Tagarda 2, Ilagan 2, de la Paz 2, Jumao-as 0, Cenal 0, Lo 0.
Period Scores: 16-11, 49-25, 65-51, 88-75.