PASIG CITY – Elimination round top seed CafeFrance-CEU became the first team to advance to the semifinals of the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup after a 90-72 demolition of eighth seed Wang’s Basketball Thursday (March 10) at the Ynares Sports Arena. The Bakers though have to wait for their next opponent after Val Acuna’s triple with two seconds left bailed out fifth seed Tanduay Rhum over fourth seed QRS JAM Liner-UP, 68-66, and arrange a winner-take-all game next week.
All the Bakers needed was a 19-0 opening salvo and that was it. Displaying defensive intensity, CafeFrance forced Wang’s into a series of turnovers while having trouble moving the ball past midcourt leading to easy scores.
“It shows that the team really wanted to play and win today,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “We remain focused on our initial goal which is to enter the finals.”
Starters Samboy de Leon and Mar Villahermosa combined for 13 of the Bakers’ initial 19 points as they easily took the first period, 26-9. Wang’s never threatened but managed to cut their deficit to only 11 markers in the second period as their best effort, 21-32.
CafeFrance’s lead stood largest at 27 points after de Leon hit a triple followed by a Joseph Celso basket at the start of the fourth period. A 12-3 windup by Wang’s reduced the final deficit but there was no stopping the Bakers’ march into the semis.
De Leon led all scorers with three triples for 15 points on top of four rebounds and three assists. Carl Bryan Cruz followed with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Mark Romero led Wang’s with eight of his 12 points in the first period amidst the Bakers’ rampage. Gwyne Capacio was the only other Wang’s player in double figures with 10 points and four rebounds.
Falling by as much as 21 points behind, 13-34, and with their tournament lives on the line, the Rhum Masters battled back strong in the third period behind the fine performances of Jeoffry Javillonar and Pari Llagas, who made a three-point play that gave Tanduay their first taste of the lead since scoring the opening basket, 50-48.
Tanduay’s defense then held the Maroons sans a field goal in the first six and a half minutes of the final period, taking a six-point lead on an Acuna triple at the 4:40 mark, 63-57. Suddenly, JAM Liner managed to close in with Paul Desiderio splitting his free throws off an Adrian Santos foul with 11 ticks left restoring the upper hand prior to Acuna’s game-winner, 66-65.
The Maroons had a chance to force overtime but the referees ruled that Raul Soyud’s tip in of Raymond Aguilar’s missed side jumper came after the final buzzer. Tanduay thus avenged their 86-102 elimination round defeat to the same squad last January 26.
“During our pregame, I told the team that this game will boil down to the breaks,” said Coach Lawrence Chongson. “I give credit to their resiliency and survival instincts but we have not achieved anything yet, we were just given another chance.”
Llagas scored all his 13 points in the pivotal third period on top of three rebounds. Javillonar supported him with 10 points and two assists.
“I admit I played bad in the first half but I thank Coach’s confidence in me and his positive motivation,” said Acuna who had eight in the fourth but only a free throw to show in the first period. “The last play was really for me and Coach instructed me to either drive or take the shot if I’m open.”
Aguilar, a leading contender for the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, scattered 17 points but shot seven out of 20 and was limited to only seven rebounds. Alfred Batino was next with 15 points and five rebounds.
The playoffs will continue on Tuesday (March 15) at the San Juan Arena starting with second seed Caida Tiles versus AMA Online Education at 2:00 PM. The main game at 4:00 PM will have third seed Phoenix Petroleum-FEU against UAAP rival Banco de Oro-NU.
How They Scored:
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (90) – de Leon 15, Cruz 13, Abundo 11, Jeruta 10, Villahermosa 8, Zamar 8, Celso 8, Manlangit 6, Ebondo 6, Opiso 2, Arim 2, Guinitaran 1, Anunciacion 0.
WANG’S BASKETBALL (72) – Romero 12, Capacio 10, Tayongtong 8, Munsayac 7, Bautista 7, Mangahas 6, Publico 5, Acosta 4, Jo. Montemayor 4, Tumalip 4, Cabahug 3, Ragasa 2, Cueto 0.
Period Scores: 26-9, 51-31, 73-51, 90-72.
TANDUAY RHUM (68) – Llagas 13, Javillonar 10, Acuna 9, Celda 7, Santos 6, Belencion 6, Tagarda 6, Lingganay 6, Gotladera 3, Wetherell 2, Cenal 0, Eriobu 0, Pessumal 0.
QRS JAM LINER-UP (66) – Aguilar 17, Batino 15, Ferrer 13, Alolino, Soyud 4, Desiderio 3, Villarias 3, Lim 2, Sorela 1, Neypes 1, Moralde 0.
Period Scores: 13-26 23-39, 52-55, 68-66.