THE FINALS: Phoenix Goes 1-0

2016 Aspirants Cup     PASIG CITY – Phoenix Petroleum-FEU held off a late rally by CafeFrance to capture Game One of the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Finals, 82-78, Thursday (March 31) at the Ynares Sports Arena. The best-of-five series will now shift to the San Juan Arena for Game Two on April 5 (Tuesday) starting at 12:00 PM.

Roger Pogoy, who sat out their 74-83 loss to the Bakers in the elimination round last March 3 due to a hamstring injury, made his presence felt by scattering 11 points off the bench in the first half as the Accelerators raced to a 41-29 lead at halftime. It truly was an all-Phoenix show as starting center Russel Escoto and tournament scoring leader Mac Belo combined for 12 markers as the best CafeFrance could do was deadlock the count at 2-2.

Ed Daquioag then sank a triple to give Phoenix their biggest lead of the game early in the third period, 51-31. Suddenly, the top seed Bakers rose from their slumber.

“We expected their comeback so we made sure the team was ready,” said winning coach Eric Gonzales. “There is no such thing as perfect defense, only perfect execution.”

JK Casino began to connect from the outside and Rodrigue Ebondo, Paul Zamar and Aaron Jeruta took turns at chipping away at the Phoenix lead. Zamar’s free throws put the Bakers at their closest with 18 seconds to go, 79-76.

Sadly, time was not on the side of CafeFrance. Daquioag and Carl Bryan Cruz traded free throws as the Bakers failed to capitalize on their possessions with Escoto settling the final tally with another free throw.

Pogoy went on to score seven more points finish with 18 points on top of nine rebounds. Daquioag backed him up with 16 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Ebondo, who was hampered most of the way with foul trouble, paced the Bakers with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Zamar followed with 12 points, eight coming in the final period.

Coach Gonzales though remains wary about Game Two. “CafeFrance showed what they can do so we have to back up our faith with works.”

The loss was only the Bakers’ second for the tournament and snapped their five-game winning run. Phoenix stretched their undefeated streak to five games dating back to the elimination round.

While the Accelerators celebrated Pogoy’s return, the Bakers top performers had to scrimp for their points. Cruz and Samboy de Leon were limited to six combined markers after averaging 13.4 and 9.2 respectively.

“We only played in the fourth period,” rued Coach Edgar Macaraya. Still, Coach Macaraya vowed to go for the series equalizer in Game Two.

How They Scored:

PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU (82) – Pogoy 18, Daquioag 16, Belo 15, Tolomia 13, Ru. Escoto 12, Ri. Escoto 4, Andrada 3, Jose 1, Mendoza 0, Pascual 0, Inigo 0, Tamsi 0.

CAFEFRANCE-CEU (78) – Ebondo 16, Zamar 12, Casino 11, Jeruta 8, Abundo 8, Manlangit 8, Opiso 5, Cruz 4, de Leon 2, Celso 2, Anunciacion 2, Villahermosa 0, Arim 0.

Period Scores: 17-12, 41-29, 65-50, 82-78.

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About Anthony E. Servinio

A long-time television sportscaster, magazine writer, photographer and college professor from the Philippines finally gives blogging a try after more than a decade of on-line presence. Read on folks!
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