SAN JUAN City – Tanduay Rhum is now the hottest team of the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup after they toppled league leader CafeFrance-CEU, 79-74, Monday (February 22) at the San Juan Arena. The team of Coach Lawrence Chongson extended their winning streak to four games while handing the Bakers their first loss of the tournament after five straight victories.
The Rhum Masters took advantage of the Bakers’ meltdown in the final period with new recruit Val Acuna hitting the go-ahead basket at exactly the two-minute warning, 71-70. Tanduay last held the upper hand in the second period, 35-33, and allowed the Bakers to lead by as much as 11 markers in the third period, 52-41.
Struggling in the first three periods, Ryan Wetherell finally got his scoring going in the fourth as he hit the big shots that rallied Tanduay and set the stage for Acuna’s heroics. CafeFrance had a chance to force an extension but they threw the ball out of bounds with eight seconds to go, forcing them to foul Von Pessumal who calmly made both free throws to ice the game and up their win-loss record to 4-2 and temporary Fourth Place in the nine-team field.
“I already did the math and we have no option but to sweep all our remaining games if we want to make the Top Four in the playoffs,” said Coach Lawrence Chongson. “All I wanted was the players to be at least 90-percent as far as mental toughness and it was their resiliency that carried them today.”
Acuna, who played under Coach Chongson at the University of the East, had no problem integrating into the scheme of things as he finished with five of his 10 points in the fourth period to go with four rebounds and three assists. Reden Celda was the top gun for the Rhum Masters with 12 markers while Jaypee Belencion also added 10 points.
Carl Bryan Cruz paced the Bakers with 15 points and five rebounds. Rodrigue Ebondo was next with 12 of his 14 points in the second half on top of 17 rebounds.
In the day’s first game, Phoenix Petroleum-FEU returned to the winning track by crumpling Banco de Oro-NU, 90-74. The game was tight for the first three periods until Mac Belo took over in fourth to break the game wide open.
Belo scattered 14 of his 19 points during that critical stage as they outscored BDO, 27-14. Mike Tolomia did a good job as his 25 points helped keep Phoenix afloat throughout the first three periods.
“Our first loss to Caida was our wakeup call because we did not play as a team,” explained Coach Eric Gonzales. “We have to play consistent basketball and the players must stay committed to Phoenix.”
J-Jay Alejandro led BDO with 20 but was held scoreless in the final canto. Alfred Aroga had a monster effort of 19 points and 19 rebounds but the Bulldogs slipped to 1-4 in a three-way tie with idle AMA Online Education and ZC Mindanao Aguilas for Sixth to Eighth Place.
AMA and the Aguilas can break out of the tie when they play each other on Tuesday (February 23) at the same venue starting at 2:00 PM. Caida Tiles and QRS JAM Liner-UP will be the featured contest at 4:00 PM.
How They Scored:
PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU (90) – Tolomia 25, Belo 19, Jose 14, Tamsi 11, Pogoy 7, Ri. Escoto 6, Ru. Escoto 5, Inigo 3, Lee Yu 0, Mendoza 0, Dennison 0, Elmejrab 0.
BANCO DE ORO-NU (74) – Alejandro 20, Aroga 19, Labing-isa 14, Javelona 8, Salem 7, Salim 4, Yu 2, Diputado 0, Tansingco 0, Perez 0, Rono 0.
Period Scores: 17-17, 42-40, 63-61, 90-74.
TANDUAY RHUM (79) – Celda 12, Belencion 10, Acuna 10, Wetherell 9, Llagas 9, Santos 8, Javillonar 7, Lingganay 6, Pessumal 4, Eriobu 2, Tagarda 2, Belleza 0, Gotladera 0.
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (74) – Cruz 15, Ebondo 14, Zamar 13, Opiso 8, Villahermosa 6, Jeruta 6, Abundo 5, de Leon 3, Manlangit 2, Anunciacion 2, Casino 0, Arim 0.
Period Scores: 22-24, 39-44, 52-57, 79-74.