PASIG CITY – CaféFrance and Hapee are both one win away from arranging a titular showdown for the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup. The Bakers trounced the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns, 78-65, while the Fresh Fighters bested the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems, 82-71, at the start of the semifinal round Monday (June 8) at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Showing rust from a 21-day layoff, the Bakers started slow and allowed the Rising Suns to go on an 11-2 run for a 16-10 lead. JM Noble then came off the bench to fire five straight points to threaten, 15-16, but CaféFrance was denied the lead after Joseph Sedurifa’s layup at the period buzzer was nullified.
The Rising Suns continued to enjoy the lead that rose to as high as six markers, 27-21. From there, the Bakers slowly came back, eventually leveling the game on two Michael Miranda free throws and taking the lead for good via a three-point play by Rodrigue Ebondo, 30-27, and 4:41 to go in the first half.
Miranda scored on a layup and the ensuing Cagayan inbound was quickly stolen by Samboy de Leon for another easy two points in a mad windup to the first half that put the Bakers on top by 10 points, 43-33. Still, the Rising Suns tried their best to fight back behind Michael Mabulac until the burly forward injured his elbow late in the fourth period.
That was the cue for CaféFrance to pour it on. Ebondo and Jam Cortes frolicked under the goal as the Bakers dominated the inside scoring, 46-24.
“Defense was our key today and we took good care of the ball,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “We also managed to stop their running game and their shooters from connecting.”
Ebondo had another monster performance with 19 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. Maverick Ahanmisi backed him up with 11 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Mabulac topped the Rising Suns with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Jason Melano came off the bench to add 14 points and eight rebounds.
In the first game, the Fresh Fighters caught the top seeded Gems flatfooted and raced to a 30-19 lead after the first period. With the specter of a blowout looming, the Gems staged a raging comeback behind Jackson Corpuz, Paul Zamar and Simon Enciso whose triple gave the Gems their only lead of the contest, 38-37.
Chris Newsome immediately restored the upper hand to Hapee and Ola Adeogun completed a three-point play to signal the Fresh Fighters’ breakaway. Art de la Cruz then found his range to push Hapee ahead at halftime, 51-40.
Compounding matters for the Gems was the loss of top scorer Moala Tautuaa to an ankle injury after colliding with Adeogun at the 8:22 mark of the third period. Tautuaa never returned to action and had 11 points and 10 rebounds but vowed to be ready for Game Two.
De la Cruz and Adeogun continued their scoring onslaught in the second half erecting their biggest lead on a Nico Elorde basket with 3:52 on the clock, 80-56. A late 15-2 blitz reduced the Gems’ final deficit.
Adeogun led all scorers with 25 points and 14 rebounds. De la Cruz followed with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“We just caught them on an off-day,” said Coach Ronnie Magsanoc. “We have to continue playing sharp against this team.”
Both teams played without members of the national team currently in Singapore for the 28th Southeast Asian Games. Baser Amer, Troy Rosario and Earl Scottie Thompson were unavailable for Hapee while Norbert Torres and Almond Vosotros were missed by Cebuana Lhuillier.
Hapee now shoots for a back-to-back championship stint while CaféFrance aims for its first ever appearance in the finals this Thursday (June 11) at the same venue. Both Cagayan Valley and Cebuana Lhuillier hope to win and force a rubber match on June 15 (Monday).
How They Scored:
HAPEE (82) – Adeogun 25, de la Cruz 23, Newsome 13, Elorde 6, Mendoza 6, Koga 4, Romero 3, Villahermosa 2, Gamboa 0, Long 0, Sorela 0.
CEBUANA LHUILLIER (71) – Zamar 18, Enciso 14, Tautuaa 11, Corpuz 8, Cabrera 8, Lopez 6, Van Opstal 3, A. Mangahas 2, Bautista 1, J. Mangahas 0, Sarangay 0.
Period Scores: 30-19, 51-40, 71-51, 82-71.
CAFÉFRANCE (78) – Ebondo 19, Ahanmisi 11, Miranda 9, Poligrates 8, de Leon 8, Noble 8, Cortes 8, Abundo 4, Batino 2, Jeruta 1, Galanza 0, Sedurifa 0, Andrada 0.
CAGAYAN VALLEY (65) – Mabulac 15, Melano 14, Galliguez 10, Celada 8, Austria 6, Tayongtong 6, Trollano 3, Flores 2, Dilay 1, Magat 0, Salamat 0, Santos 0.
Period Scores: 15-16, 43-33, 60-51, 78-65.