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Hapee takes on CafeFrance five

Games Today Marikina Sports Complex
10 a.m. – Cebuana Lhuillier vs AMA University
12 p.m. – Jumbo Plastic vs Cagayan Valley
2 p.m. – Café France vs Hapee

There doesn’t seem to be any slowing down for the Hapee Fresh Fighters, who has remained unbeaten halfway through the elimination round of the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.

Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc readily noted his troops’ experience as principal reason to their dominant performance.

The Fresh Fighters sit on top of the leader board with a league-best 6-0 record capped by a 22-point victory against Wangs Basketball Thursday last week. Hapee has won six straight games by an average 14 points.

But the Fresh Fighters are expected to have their acid test when they face the Café France Bakers (5-1) in the 2 p.m. match-up between two defense-oriented teams at the Marikina Sports Complex. The game was supposed to be held Monday last week but was cancelled due to Typhoon Ruby.

“[Café France] is a tough defensive team so we have to be ready and match their intensity,” Magsanoc cautioned.

The Fresh Fighters are the league’s top defensive team with an average 59 points allowed per game but the Bakers are as impressive by limiting their opponents to an averaged 64 points an outing.

While Hapee is almost a cinch to clinch an outright semifinal berth, Café France coach Egay Macaraya believes a third place finish and a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals is more realistic target for his team.

The hunt for the Top 2 spots could change drastically, though, should the Bakers get away with a win against the Fresh Fighters.

Cagayan Valley, the only other unbeaten team in the conference, also tries to preserve its pristine record and bolster its bid for an outright semifinal spot when it battles undermanned Jumbo Plastic at 12 p.m.

Off to a 5-0 start and fresh from a two-week break after their record 120-77 blowout win against MP Hotel last Dec. 4, the Rising Suns are expected to dominate the depleted Giants, who are without injured frontliners Jan Colina and MacLean Sabellina. Jumbo Plastic also lost guards Brian Heruela and Janus Lozada on various reasons.

“It will be tough for us to compete against [Cagayan Valley] considering that we are undermanned. We’ll see if we could fill up the vacant spots but as it is I don’t think we have anybody who could stop Moala Tautuaa. We just have to match their energy and hope for the best,” said Jumbo coach Stevenson Tiu.

The day’s other game pits Cebuana Lhuillier against struggling AMA University at 10 a.m.

The Gems (3-3) are seeking their second straight win and fourth overall in seven games to stay in the hunt for a quarterfinal berth. The Titans (3-4), on the other hand, are trying to avoid a second straight loss to remain in contention in the playoff race.