SAN JUAN City – Hapee Fresh Fighters and Cagayan Valley Rising Suns secured slots in the quarterfinals and the valuable twice to beat advantage upon completion of the penultimate day of the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup eliminations at the San Juan Arena Monday (May 25). The Fresh Fighters held off the tough MP Hotel Warriors, 87-81, while the Rising Suns sank the top seed Cebuana Lhuillier Gems, 102-95.
Playing for the first time without Coach Alvin Pua who was slapped with a lifetime ban and a fine of PHP 500,000.00 for punching a referee in their previous game, the Rising Suns used his absence as a rallying point. Conceding the first period, 21-29, the defense limited the Gems to only nine markers in the second while Don Trollano outscored the entire opposition with four triples as part of his 16-point scoring explosion that gave Cagayan the lead for good by halftime, 49-38.
Still, the Gems gave it a fight hoping to enter the playoffs on a winning note. Moala Tautuaa, whose transfer to Cebuana to Cagayan during the offseason raised a lot of eyebrows, sliced his former team’s lead to a point entering the final two minutes, 93-94.
Back baskets by Michael Mabulac and Trollano then gave the Rising Suns breathing room at the 1:20 mark, 98-93. Tautuaa gave Cebuana’s final gasp with a stab and 38 ticks to go, 95-98.
In the crucial play of the game, Abel Galliguez spotted an open Jason Melano cutting across the baseline for an easy hoop, 100-95, and 18 seconds remaining. Simon Enciso’s triple attempt missed, forcing the Gems to foul Mabulac for two charities and the final count.
Trollano finished with 25 points, the most by any Cagayan player in the tournament, to go with seven rebounds. Mabulac battled the taller Cebuana frontline to tally 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Norbert Torres paced the Gems with 23 points and seven rebounds. Enciso and Tautuaa both chipped in 18 apiece with Tautuaa grabbing 12 rebounds.
Meanwhile, the Fresh Fighters relied on their strong finishing kick against the also ran Warriors. Playing with nothing to lose, the Warriors unleashed a barrage of triples in the second period behind Jopher Custodio, Mark Cruz and Rocky Acidre for a 39-34 halftime advantage.
Hapee finally got their bearings in the third as Art de la Cruz banged in 10 markers including the go-ahead basket, 49-48. The Warriors though would not easily concede, taking a 67-64 lead early in the final canto.
From there, the Fresh Fighters went on a 13-2 run behind Baser Amer, Ola Adeogun and Chris Newsome that restored the upper hand for good, 79-69, and 2:15 to play. Despite being held sans a field goal in the final minute, Hapee preserved the win via solid free throw shooting.
“Our wish to enter the playoffs has been fulfilled,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “My only concern is that we are not sure who among the players will be available due to injuries and commitments to their school team and the national team.”
De la Cruz topped the Fresh Fighters with 15 points and seven rebounds. Adeogun was next with 14 points and five rebounds.
Custodio and Khasim Mirza were the top scorers for the Warriors with 17 points each. The Warriors absorbed their fifth straight setback for a 1-7 win-loss card.
Both Hapee and Cagayan finished with similar 6-3 records but the Rising Suns earned the third seeding by virtue of their 104-89 annihilation of the Fresh Fighters last April 20. After that game, management recalled the San Beda College players and Hapee has been on a four-game winning roll since.
Their quarterfinal opponents will be determined after the final day of the eliminations on May 28 (Thursday) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. Jumbo Plastic (4-4) plays the Warriors at 1:00 PM followed by the 3:00 PM date between the KeraMix Mixers (4-4) and Tanduay Light Rhum Masters (3-5).
Wins by Jumbo and KeraMix will automatically give them the last two quarterfinal seats and face Cagayan and Hapee respectively. Losses will result in a multiple-team tie that shall be resolved by the quotient system.
How They Scored:
HAPEE (87) – de la Cruz 15, Adeogun 14, Newsome 13, Amer 11, Thompson 9, Mendoza 6, Rosario 6, Elorde 4, Villahermosa 3, Long 2, Sorela 2, Koga 2, Romero 0.
MP HOTEL (81) – Mirza 17, Custodio 17, Nambatac, Cruz 9, Acidre 8, Quinto 5, de la Pena 4, Colina 2, Masaglang 2, Mendoza 2, Apreku 0.
Period Scores: 14-12, 34-39, 62-60, 87-81.
CAGAYAN VALLEY (102) – Trollano 25, Mabulac 22, Galliguez 16, Melano 11, Salamat 10, Dilay 8, Celada 5, Tayongtong 3, Magat 2, Rogado 2, Flores 0, Santos 0.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (95) – Torres 23, Enciso 18, Tautuaa 18, Zamar 14, Cabrera 11, J. Mangahas 6, Corpuz 5, A. Mangahas 0, Van Opstal 0, Vosotros 0, Bautista 0.
Period Scores: 21-29, 49-38, 72-68, 102-95.