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Hapee faces Bakers

Games Today (Ynares Arena,Pasig City)
2 p.m. – Hapee vs Café France
4 p.m. – Cagayan Valley vs Cebuana Lhuillier

The first time they met, the Café France Bakers were terribly outclassed by the Hapee Fresh Fighters in the elimination round.

Café France coach Egay Macaraya concedes that his troops will have to do lot better as the two teams face each in the semifinals of the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.

Café France advance to its first ever semifinal appearance by dispatching Bread Story-Lyceum, 81-68, in Monday’s rubber match.

That should give the Bakers some momentum in Thursday’s opener of their best-of-three series against the well-rested Fresh Fighters, who are coming off a two-week break.

But that’s about it

Hapee blasted Café France, 70-55, in the eliminations. The Fresh Fighters top the league in defense with their 59.55 points allowed per game.

Macaraya acknowledged that the Fresh Fighters are a match-up nightmare with their size and depth. They are also no stranger to championship battles since most of them have played for five-time champion NLEX until the franchise joined the big league.

“Hopefully we’ve learned our lesson during our first meeting. Hapee is a strong team. It will be very tough for us to match up with them. So we really have to play solid for 40 minutes. Everybody must contribute here and there. Eight players can’t get the job done. We really need the support of our bench,” Macaraya emphasized.

In past interviews, Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc argued that the semifinals is a new level and desire will play a big factor in the series.
“We have to be ready for Café France. Defense will dictate the story of the series,” he said.

The Hapee-Café France encounter is set at 2 p.m. at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City. The other semi-final between top-seed Cagayan Valley and no. 4 Cebuana Lhuillier comes off at 4 p.m.

The Risings Suns defeated the Gems, 79-76, in the eliminations. Interestingly, the league’s top pick overall, Moala Tautuaa, wasn’t around yet at the time.

“With him around we’ll definitely have our hands full,” Cebuana coach Boycie Zamar conceded. He said his biggest worry is his team’s lack of killer instinct but hopes their entry in the Final Four will motivate his chargers.

“We still don’t have the consistency that I have envisioned for the team, but we’re getting there,” he said.

The Gems defied the odds in the quarterfinals by eliminating twice-to-beat Jumbo Plastic to get into the Final Four.