PASIG CITY – Rodrigue Ebondo capped his monster game with a running shot at the baseline with 1.8 seconds left to lift the CaféFrance Bakers over the Hapee Fresh Fighters, 56-55, and crown themselves the champions of the 2015 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Thursday (June 25) in front of a packed Ynares Sports Arena. The Bakers of Coach Edgar Macaraya thus ended the best-of-three series, 2-1, marking the first time in league history that a championship has gone the full route.
Leading for practically the entire game, the Bakers temporarily ceded the upper hand after Nico Elorde drained a triple with 45 ticks to play, 55-54. Hapee then made a big defensive stop and had a chance to pad their lead further but they committed a 24-second shot clock violation to return the ball to CaféFrance with five seconds remaining.
“Rodrigue really wanted to win it so he asked for the ball,” said Coach Macaraya. In an unexpected move, Troy Rosario suddenly switched on defense leaving the smaller Chris Newsome to mark Ebondo as he drove for the championship clincher.
Earlier, Rosario completed Hapee’s steady fight back from 12 points down in the third canto, 27-39, by forcing the game’s lone deadlock with 2:24 in the fourth, 52-52. Jam Cortes put CaféFrance back on top by scoring on an unmolested layup off a steal, 54-52, setting the stage for the wild finish.
Ebondo was simply an unstoppable force with 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks. The low-scoring contest saw three Bakers chip in seven points each in Samboy de Leon, Maverick Ahanmisi and Joseph Sedurifa.
Elorde paced Hapee with 12 points and nine rebounds. Jessmar Villahermosa was next with 11 points but was held scoreless in the second half.
The Fresh Fighters played the game with a big handicap as stalwarts Art de la Cruz and Ola Adeogun suited up but were not fielded by Coach Ronnie Magsanoc due to nagging injuries. Leading scorer Baser Amer did not show up as he nursed his dislocated shoulder from Game Two.
“When Hapee played a small unit, it caught us by surprise,” admitted Coach Macaraya. “It was difficult for us but good thing the players made the adjustments in time.”
The fourth seed Fresh Fighters took Game One, 83-72, last June 18. The second seed Bakers forced the rubber match by snatching Game Two, 76-70, last June 22.
Completing the championship roster for CaféFrance are Eliud Poligrates, Bong Galanza, Alvin Abundo, Aaron Jeruta, Alfred Batino, Joseph Celso, Yutien Andrada, Michael Miranda and JM Noble. Coach Macaraya’s assistant coaches are Yong Garcia, Oscar Torres, Eric Samson, Jay Cambarihan and Timothy Taclas with trainers Philip Go and Rachel Santos. Team manager is Jeff Plaza, assisted by Jun Tiongco.
Looking ahead, several of the Bakers will apply for the PBA Rookie Draft on August 23, 2015 with Ahamisi looming as the hottest prospect. The Centro Escolar University varsity players will buckle down to preparations for their title defense in the 15th National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU) tentatively set to begin next month.
Meanwhile, Hapee team owner Dr. Cecilio K. Pedro offered his congratulations to the Bakers and also lauded his team for their good game. “I am very proud of my players because they showed how Hapee basketball is played – we played our best, we do not hurt others and we offer our game to God,” said Dr. Pedro.
How They Scored:
CAFÉFRANCE (56) – Ebondo 18, de Leon 7, Ahanmisi 7, Sedurifa 7, Poligrates 6, Cortes 4, Galanza 3, Abundo 2, Andrada 2, Jeruta 0, Miranda 0, Batino 0.
HAPEE (55) – Elorde 12, Villahermosa 11, Newsome 8, Rosario 8, Mendoza 7, Romero 5, Gamboa 4, Thompson 0.
Period Scores: 15-14, 33-27, 43-41, 56-55.