QUEZON CITY – Defending champion CafeFrance-CEU overcame the absence of head coach Edgar Macaraya and ailing center Rodrigue Ebondo to prevail over the Topstar ZC Mindanao, 93-67, in the penultimate game of the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Jesus Christ Saves Global Outreach (JCSGO) Gym Tuesday (August 9). The Bakers now await the result of the final game between league leader Racal Tiles and also-ran AMA Online Education to determine the semifinal pairings.
A pair of 7-0 scoring runs in the first period basically told the story of the game. Hoping to end their forgettable tournament on a positive note, the Aguilas scored seven straight points to build an early 9-4 lead but this was quickly negated a 7-0 run by the Bakers to grab back the upper hand for good, 11-9.
Carl Bryan Cruz and Paul Zamar then broke the game wide open in the second period as they combined for 17 of the team’s 27 points en route to a 48-36 halftime cushion. It was smooth sailing henceforth as the Aguilas put up a token resistance.
“Coach said that we should just follow our system and game plan and use the game to prepare for the semifinals,” said assistant coach Michael Buendia. “We did play relaxed in the first half but we are glad that the second unit stepped up in the second half.”
Coach Macaraya was suspended for the game after he was caught throwing the ball towards a referee in their last game versus Phoenix Petroleum. Ebondo, who is averaging 16.7 points a game, came in his playing attire but was under the weather so the coaches opted to rest him for the semifinals.
Cruz led all scorers with 23 points, including 10 in the fourth as the Bakers continued to pound it in despite the outcome already a certainty. Taking Ebondo’s slot in the starting unit, Michael Parala knocked in a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“We don’t want to choose our opponent, we will just prepare hard and be ready for anybody,” added Coach Buendia. A win by AMA would hand the top seeding to the Bakers but a win by Racal would relegate them to third spot.
Gino Jumao-as paced the Aguilas with 20 points. JR Cawaling was the only other teammate in twin digits at 12 points.
The hard luck Aguilas thus ended their tournament winless in 12 games, losing by an average margin of 30 points. The team also broke the 0-9 record of the expansion Cagayan Valley Rising Suns during the 2012 Foundation Cup.
Topstar’s losing skid actually stands at 15 games dating back to the Aspirants Cup earlier this year. The last and only time they tasted a victory was a 73-67 decision over Banco de Oro-NU on February 18, 2016.
How They Scored:
CAFEFRANCE-CEU (93) – Cruz 23, Zamar 12, Parala 12, Manlangit 11, Opiso 10, Abundo 6, Custodio 6, Arim 6, Casino 3, Jeruta 2, Anunciacion 2.
TOPSTAR ZC MINDANAO (67)– Jumao-as 20, Cawaling 12, Garcia 9, Ongteco 7, Lacastesantos 7, Argamino 4, Julkipli 3, Rivera 3, Sarangay 2, Tano 0, Dadjilul 0.
Period Scores: 22-18, 48-36, 64-52, 93-67.