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Hapee in finals

Game Thursday (The Arena, San Juan)
3 p.m. – Cagayan vs Cebuana Lhuillier

Hapee Toothpaste turned to its defense when it mattered most and held off a determined CaféFrance side, 69-56, to complete a two-game sweep of their best-of-three semifinal series in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup yesterday at The Arena in San Juan.

After a tense first half showing, the Fresh Fighters lived up to their lofty status to put away the Bakers through a pressure defense that helped limit the third seeded squad to just nine points – no thanks to a poor shot selection.

As expected, veterans Garvo Lanete, Bobby Ray Parks and Kirk Long produced significant numbers as Hapee advanced to the finals in its return to amateur league following a four-year hiatus.

Hapee, which won three championships in the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL), will face either top seed Cagayan Valley or Cebuana Lhuillier.

The Rising Suns downed the Gems, 93-83, in Game 2 of their own semis series to force a knockout match on Thursday.

“I thought the players are too excited at the start. They wanted to put the game right away. And Café France took advantage of that. But I thought the halftime break allowed my players to think clearly and they realize we can’t do things just like that,” said Hapee Coach Ronnie Magsanoc.

Parks finished with 19 points while Lanete and Ola Adeogun added 12 apiece for the Fresh Fighters, who will be taking a well-deserved rest while waiting for the next opponent.

The Bakers, who had hoped to force a rubber match, looked good early and led 36-35 at halftime.

But the Fresh Fighters fought back in the third, and took a 45-38 lead which they protected valiantly to complete their dominant performance against the Bakers. Hapee took Game 1, 74-58, last Thursday.

The Rising Suns blew 12-point lead late in the third quarter but kept their poise in the fourth until Abel Galliguez knocked down a tie-breaking 3-pointer to put Cagayan ahead for good, 86-83.

The scores:
Cagayan Valley 98 – Tautuaa 26, Mabulac 16, Galliguez 16, Trollano 13, Celada 11, Melano 8, Dilay 6, Austria 2, Santos 0, Salamat 0, Tayongtong 0.

Cebuana Lhuillier 93 – Zamar 15, Vosotros 15, Bautista 11, Torres 10, Mangahas 9, Ferrer 9, Enciso 6, Guinto 6, Villahermosa 5, Lopez 5, Acibar 2, Banal 0.

Quarters: 27-20; 54-45; 78-70; 98-93.

Hapee 69 – Parks 19, Adeogun 2, Lanete 12, Rosario 7, Newsome 7, Dela Cruz 4, Amer 2, Elorde 2, Long 2, Hayes 2, Thompson 0, Mendoza 0.

Café France 59 – De Leon 15, Ahanmisi 12, Alolino 7, Ebondo 7, Cortez 6, Galanza 4, Sedurifa 4, Jeruta 0, Celso 0, Abundo 0, Noble 0, Andada 0.

Quarters: 20-17; 35-36; 53-45; 69-56