SAN JUAN City – CafeFrance-CEU forced a deciding Game Five in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup championship series after an emotionally-charged 100-94 flattening of Phoenix Petroleum-FEU Tuesday (April 12) at the San Juan Arena. The rubber match is scheduled for Thursday (April 14) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Shaking off a slow start, Paul Zamar took charge in the second period by firing seven points and Mar Villahermosa completed a three-point play that gave the Bakers the upper hand for good, 46-43. Forced to play catch up, the best the Accelerators could do was to deadlock the count for several times.
Carl Bryan Cruz then added another triple to erect the Bakers’ biggest lead of the game at the 6:47 mark of the fourth period, 82-68. Just as CafeFrance was about to celebrate, the Accelerators came roaring back behind Mac Belo and Michael Tolomia with Belo’s three-point play tying the score for the last time at 86-86 and 3:30 on the clock.
CafeFrance’s championship poise then manifested itself with Aaron Jeruta and Zamar coolly making free throws to ward off the rally. Zamar then drove to the hoop for another three-point play to give the Bakers a solid 94-88 edge with a minute to go.
“As the senior player on the team, I take the responsibility to lead my teammates,” said Zamar. “I really want to win a D-League championship after many frustrations and close calls with my previous teams.”
Zamar, who had to shuttle between Manila and Boracay to attend his wedding after Game Three, finished with 25 points and five rebounds for Best Player honors. Ebondo had another double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Coach Edgar Macaraya was all praises for Zamar, who combined well with Jeruta and Alvin Abundo in a three-guard setup. Jeruta was also cited for his defensive job on Ed Daquioag, who was limited to nine points and went scoreless in the second half.
“Let’s all enjoy Game Five,” said Coach Macaraya. “This is a long series and it will boil down to whoever will make the right adjustments and who has more endurance.”
The Bakers though had to overcome the absence of Cruz amidst the big Phoenix fight back, after the sweet-shooting forward was forced to sit down for three minutes after committing an unsportsmanlike foul on Belo at the 4:39 mark. Still, Coach Macaraya opted not to field back Cruz after the combination on the floor began to deliver on both offense and defense.
Tolomia paced the Accelerators with a personal best of 29 points, four rebounds and five assists. Belo scored 17 of his 24 points in the fourth to go with 15 rebounds and three assists.
Before the game, Belo was awarded as the tournament’s Best Player by Commissioner Andres Y. Narvasa. He beat out teammates Tolomia and Daquioag and CafeFrance’s Cruz for the honor.
How They Scored:
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (100) – Zamar 25, Ebondo 18, Cruz 17, de Lepon 15, Jeruta 8, Abundo 8, Villahermosa 3, Casino 3, Manlangit 2, Opiso 1, Celso 0, Arim 0.
PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU (94) – Tolomia 29, Belo 24, Pogoy 14, Daquioag 9, Jose 6, Mendoza 3, Inigo 3, Ru. Escoto 2, Andrada 2, Ri. Escoto 2, Tamsi 0.
Period Scores: 21-21, 47-44, 75-64, 100-94.