PASIG CITY – They may have been the last team to confirm their participation but Phoenix Petroleum-FEU is now the champion of the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup. The Accelerators went through anxious moments before disposing of a gritty CafeFrance-CEU quintet in overtime, 88-81, Thursday (April 14) at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Tournament Best Player Mac Belo lived up to his status and went to work in the overtime by scattering six points, including a clutch basket with 51 seconds left that gave Phoenix a commanding 86-78 lead. The Bakers countered with a Paul Zamar triple, 81-86, but that was the last to be heard from their side as Michael Tolomia iced the game and championship from the free throw line with still 22 ticks on the clock.
Phoenix ended the first-ever best-of-five championship series in league history, 3-2. The Accelerators took all the odd-numbered games, including a thriller in Game Three decided by a late triple by Roger Pogoy, 85-84.
“I only played basketball up to high school unlike my players so I challenged them to offer this game for the glory of God,” said winning coach Eric Gonzales. “When we joined the D-League, our goal was just to make the Final Four and work from there so thank you for this blessing.”
CafeFrance came out ablaze after the halftime break and erected several 10-point leads, the last coming at 59-49 just as the third period was winding up. Suddenly, the Bakers’ offense turned ice cold as they could not score for almost the first five minutes of the final period thus allowing the Accelerators to seize control, 63-62.
Zamar had a chance to win the game outright but he missed a running shot at the regulation buzzer. Earlier, the Bakers had another chance but Joseph Manlangit missed a key free throw off Raymar Jose’s sixth and final foul that kept the count even with 1:23 to go, 74-74.
“I cannot say anything except that this championship is special because it is at the semipro level,” said Belo. “I just want to thank my teammates especially Mike (Tolomia) and I am glad that we were able to give Ed (Daquioag) a championship.”
Further cementing his reputation as one of the best amateur players today, Belo submitted monster numbers of 25 points and 13 rebounds. Tolomia supported him with 15 point, seven rebounds and three assists.
Zamar was the high man for the Bakers with 20 points off the bench. Rodrigue Ebondo had 14 points and 20 rebounds while Manlangit also had 14 points and eight rebounds.
PBA Commissioner Andres Y. Narvasa and Chairman Robert Non awarded the championship trophy to the Accelerators. The other members of the champion squad are Joel Lee Yu, Gryann Mendoza, Russel Escoto, Yutien Andrada, Ryan Pascual, Achie Inigo, Richard Escoto and Al Francis Tamsi.
The 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup is tentatively scheduled to open on the first week of May. CafeFrance is the defending champion.
How They Scored:
PHOENIX PETROLEUM-FEU (88) – Belo 25, Tolomia 15, Jose 11, Ru. Escoto 10, Pogoy 9, Tamsi 8, Andrada 4, Mendoza 3, Daquioag 2, Ri. Escoto 1, Inigo 0.
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (81) – Zamar 20, Manlangit 14, Ebondo 14, de Leon 11, Villahermosa 10. Jeruta 4, Abundo 4, Cruz 4, Casino 0, Arim 0.
Period Scores: 14-13, 32-38, 56-62, 74-74 (reg.), 88-81 (OT).