SAN JUAN City – It will be CafeFrance-CEU versus Phoenix Petroleum-FEU for the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup after eliminating their respective opponents Tuesday (March 29) at the San Juan Arena. The best-of-five championship series, the first ever in league history, will commence this Thursday (March 31) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
CafeFrance-CEU claimed the first seat in the finals after subduing a tough Tanduay Rhum quintet, 72-63. In the following game, the Accelerators swept the Caida Tile Masters, 94-90.
The Bakers leaned on the clutch plays of Aaron Jeruta, Samboy de Leon and Alvin Abundo entering the final minute and prevent the Rhum Masters from extending the series. Abundo fed the streaking Jeruta for an easy field goal to give the Bakers the lead for good, 64-63, and 1:08 to go.
The Rhum Masters then threw the ball away, setting the stage for de Leon on sink a dagger triple with 31 seconds on the clock, 67-63. Abundo then took advantage of the suddenly disorganized Tanduay side and immediately stole the ball and scooted down the court for another layup for an unassailable 69-63 advantage at the 27-second mark.
For a while, it looked like the Rhum Masters were on their way to a rubber match. They gallantly fought back from 16 markers down in the first half, 25-41, to seize back the lead early in the fourth behind back to back three-point plays by Rudy Lingganay and Val Acuna and capped by a Pari Llagas basket, 52-51, and eight minutes remaining.
Acuna and Lingganay continued Tanduay’s assault as the lead changed hands several times. Timely hits by Jeruta, Paul Zamar and Carl Bryan Cruz kept CafeFrance within striking distance.
De Leon and Rodrigue Ebondo paced the Bakers with 13 points each with Ebondo grabbing 12 rebounds. Abundo had 12 points, 10 made in the first half, on top of seven rebounds.
“The players showed maturity and experience from winning championships for their school and in the last conference,” said Coach Edgar Macaraya. “We are in the finals again but I still believe we are the underdogs against either team in the other series.”
Lingganay had good numbers of 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists but it was not enough. Acuna recovered from his scoreless stint in the last game with 14 points.
Phoenix fell behind after the first two periods, 46-54. Determined to end it immediately, Coach Eric Gonzales reminded his Accelerators that if they continue their first half play, they will lose the game.
Suddenly, Phoenix managed to slow down the game much to their advantage as Caida had trouble finding the basket and was forced to get their points via free throws. The good defensive play allowed the Accelerators to claw back behind Ed Daquioag’s 13 markers and lead entering the final period, 72-69.
The best that Caida could do was deadlock the count at 76-76 but this was quickly negated by a Roger Pogoy triple, 79-76, with six minutes to go. The Accelerators though had some anxious moments in the waning seconds as Mac Belo and Raymar Jose missed key free throws but luckily for them the Tile Masters failed to capitalize.
“The finals will be a battle of toughness,” said Coach Gonzales. “After three years, the team has evolved into one solid team so we will be ready.”
Daquioag scattered a total of 22 points in 26 minutes of action. Mike Tolomia was next with 15 of his 17 points in the first half to go with six assists.
Jonathan Grey topped the Tile Masters with 22 points, 12 coming in the fourth period. Dexter Maiquez and Joseph Terso backed him with 11 points each.
How They Scored:
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (72) – de Leon 13, Ebondo 13, Abundo 12, Cruz 10, Zamar 9, Jeruta 9, Opiso 5, Casino 1, Villahermosa 0, Manlangit 0.
TANDUAY RHUM (63) – Lingganay 17, Acuna 14, Santos 9, Tagarda 8, Llagas 7, Pessumal 5, Belencion 3, Wetherell 0, Belleza 0, Cenal 0, Javillonar 0.
Period Scores: 19-16, 43-28, 51-44, 72-63.
PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU (94) – Daquioag 22, Tolomia 17, Mendoza 14, Pogoy 13, Belo 11, Jose 9, Ru. Escoto 4, Andrada 4, Inigo 0, Ri. Escoto 0, Tamsi 0.
CAIDA TILES (90) – Grey 22, Maiquez 11, Terso 11, Jalalon 9, Javier 8, Nambatac 7, Paniamogan 7, Gabawan 6, Perkins 5, Ruaya 4, Cabrera 0, Robles 0.
Period Scores: 28-26, 46-54, 72-69, 94-90.