SAN JUAN City – The Cebuana Lhuillier Gems’ bid for a perfect 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup disappeared as resurgent Hapee Fresh Fighters inflicted the first loss on the pacesetters, 71-70, at the San Juan Arena Monday (May 18). In the other game, the CaféFrance Bakers quietly sewed up the second outright semifinal berth with an 83-72 battering of the Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants.
Baser Amer converted on a running floater with 20 seconds left to provide the marginal points for the Fresh Fighters. Given ample time, the Gems failed to hoist a shot in their final possession, allowing the ball to go out of bounds in Hapee’s favor with 1.5 ticks to go and snapping their seven-game winning streak.
“They were out to preserve their undefeated record, we were fighting for survival,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. True enough the Fresh Fighters had to contend without center Ola Adeogun who was thrown out with 5:26 in the final period after incurring two technical fouls.
Already assured of the top seeding since their last game, the Gems allowed the Fresh Fighters to pull away and lead by as high as 19 markers late in the second period, 40-21. Moala Tautuaa then sank a triple to trigger the Gems’ 9-2 windup and close in at the break, 42-30.
With the momentum on their side, Allan Mangahas presided over the big Cebuana fight back in the third by scoring 12 points and put the Gems closer entering the fourth period, 52-55. Their patience finally paid off as Paul Zamar returned the lead to the Gems for the first time since the first period via a triple, 57-55.
Two deadlocks and five lead changes later, Hapee looked all set to walk away with the victory when Art de la Cruz scored twice to hike the Fresh Fighters’ advantage to six points and 2:17 to play, 69-63. Hoping to preserve their immaculate slate, Roider Cabrera fired a triple followed by back-to-back baskets by Almond Vosotros to put the Gems back ahead at the 1:06 mark, 70-69.
Amer topped the Fresh Fighters with 18 points and three assists in only his second game of the tournament. Troy Rosario followed with 15 points and nine rebounds as Hapee tied the idle Cagayan Valley Rising Suns for Third and Fourth Place at 5-3.
After his third period scoring spree, Mangahas went scoreless in the fourth period but still led the Gems with 17 points. Tautuaa chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds.
CaféFrance weathered a late Jumbo Plastic surge anchored on Philip Paniamogan and Glenn Khobuntin that saw their once-imposing 23-point lead (62-39) chopped down to a mere nine points, 70-61, and 1:39 on the clock. Time was not on the side of the Giants with the Bakers shooting steadily from the free throw line to preserve their win.
Eliud Poligrates again proved to be an important acquisition by the Bakers with 11 of his team-best 16 points in the fourth period to stave off the Giants’ rally to go with five rebounds and three assists. Maverick Ahanmisi supported him with 14 points and six rebounds.
“I’m very happy with the team’s improvement and this is our first time to make the semifinals outright which was our first goal,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “We now go for our second goal which is to make the finals for the first time.”
Paniamogan paced the Giants with 21 points while Khobuntin added 14. Now at 3-4, they are hanging on to the sixth and last playoff berth holding a shaky half-game lead over the pursuing Tanduay Light Rhum Masters and AMA University Titans who are both at 3-5.
How They Scored:
CAFÉFRANCE (83) – Poligrates 16, Ahanmisi 14, Galanza 13, de Leon 13, Sedurifa 7, Ebondo 6, Batino 5, Jeruta 3, Andrada 3, Cortes 3, Miranda 0, Abundo 0.
JUMBO PLASTIC (72) – Paniamogan 21, Khobuntin 14, Sanga 12, Tiongson 7, Mandani 4, Eguilos 4, Villamor 4, Perez 4, Arellano 2, Purdy 0, Almario 0, Avillanoza 0.
Period Scores: 19-11, 41-27, 60-39, 83-72.
HAPEE (71) – Amer 18, Rosario 15, Parks 12, de la Cruz 8, Adeogun 6, Thompson 5, Newsome 5, Elorde 2, Villahermosa 0, Long 0, Romero 0, Koga 0.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (70) – A. Mangahas 17, Tautuaa 15, Cabrera 9, Vosotros 9, Corpuz 7, Torres 5, Enciso 4, Zamar 4, Van Opstal 0, Bautista 0, Sarangay 0.
Period Scores: 18-14, 42-30, 55-52, 71-70.