SAN JUAN City – Phoenix Petroleum-FEU and CafeFrance-CEU took the important first step towards a championship showdown for the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup by downing their opponents at the start of the best-of-three semifinal series Tuesday (March 22) at the San Juan Arena. Both school-based quintets can seal the deal by taking Game Two scheduled for next Tuesday at the same venue.
The Accelerators applied a stingy defense on the high-scoring Tile Masters, limiting them to their lowest output of the tournament for the 90-83 victory. Prior to the game, the Tile Masters were averaging 102.4 points per game.
The Phoenix defense was most evident in the final five minutes as they held Caida to only a pair of free throws to build their biggest lead of the game with 1:12 to play, 88-79. The good defense translated into easy baskets for Mac Belo, including back to back hits for an 82-78 cushion.
“Before the game, I told the team that they should be ready to engage in war,” said Coach Eric Gonzales while bumping his fists. “We have this tendency to relax at the start so we just simplified the players’ roles while defending Caida’s shooters.”
Ed Daquioag lit up the scoreboard for 32 points on top of eight rebounds and three assists to sustain the Phoenix attack in the first three periods. Belo finished with 20 points and nine rebounds as the Accelerators avenged their 91-108 defeat to Caida last February 15.
Jonathan Grey topped Caida with 14 points. Jason Perkins was next with 12 followed by Chris Javier with 11.
CafeFrance also got back at the Tanduay Rhum Masters, 65-58, in another defensive contest. The Rhum Masters handed the Bakers their only loss of the elimination round, 79-74, last February 22.
From the game’s final stalemate at 51-51, the Bakers went on a roll beginning with free throws from Mar Villahermosa followed by an Alvin Abundo triple and punctuated by back-to-back hits from Abundo and Rodrigue Ebondo to give them an unassailable 60-51 edge entering the final two minutes. Jaypee Belencion would cluster five points to slightly threaten, 56-60, but this was quickly defused by timely hits from the free throw line.
“In our first meeting, (Val) Acuna was a new player and he was not scouted and he really hurt us,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “We learned a lot from that loss because Tanduay is very unpredictable so we made adjustments on defense.”
Ebondo, the reigning NAASCU MVP, gave a superlative performance of 14 points, 25 rebounds and two blocks. Joseph Manlangit came off the bench to contribute eight of his 11 points in the second period as the Bakers took the first half, 32-28.
Acuna, who scored 10 points in their first meeting, was held to zero today thanks to the tight guarding of Abundo. Pari Llagas and Von Pessumal paced the Rhum Masters with 13 markers each.
How They Scored:
PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU (90) – Daquioag 32, Belo 20, Ru. Escoto 11, Tolomia 10, Tamsi 5, Pogoy 4, Andrada 4, Inigo 3, Ri. Escoto 1, Mendoza 0.
CAIDA TILES (83) – Grey 14, Perkins 12, Javier 11, Cabrera 10, Terso 10, Jalalon 9, Paniamogan 7, Robles 4, Maiquez 3, Gabawan 2, Nambatac 1.
Period Scores: 23-23, 42-46, 67-68, 90-83.
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (65) – Ebondo 14, Manlangit 11, Cruz 10, Villahermosa 9, Abundo 9, de Leon 6, Jeruta 6, Zamar 0, Opiso 0, Celso 0, Casino 0, Arim 0.
TANDUAY RHUM (58) – Llagas 13, Pessumal 13, Belencion 11, Javillonar 6, Celda 4, Eriobu 3, Santos 3, Lingganay 3, Wetherell 2, Acuna 0, Tagarda 0.
Period Scores: 18-16, 32-28, 49-44, 65-58.