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PBA D League Finals: CaféFrance eyes first D-League title

CaféFrance guard Jonar Huertas attempts a steal during Game 2 of the PBA D-League Finals in the Ynares Sports Centre in Pasig City. (Federico Cruz)

Game Today (Ynares Arena)
3 p.m. – CaféFrance vs Hapee

It all boils down to motivation versus experience when Café France and Hapee face off on Thursday in the deciding Game 3 of their titular series for the PBA D-League Foundation Cup.

Yes, the series many thought would be a walk-in-the-park for the Fresh Fighters need one more game to decide the champion.

For the Fresh Fighters the 3 p.m. encounter at the Ynares Arena is another chance to finish off the Bakers and clinch their second straight championship.

For the Bakers, the series’ finale means a shot of a life time to finally end long years of frustration in quest for their first league championship.

“As I’ve said before, records are meant to be broken that’s why we are going for the victory (this Thursday),” CaféFrance coach Egay Macaraya declared after the Bakers forced a do-or die with a 76-70 victory in Game 2 Monday.

The Bakers are making their first finals appearance in five years but it doesn’t show. Apparently, their discipline, motivation and determination are far greater than their lack of playoff experience.

They proved it in Game 2.

After struggling to match-up in the series opener, the Bakers came back strong in Game 2. They dominated the Fresh Fighters the entire game with excellent shooting and punishing defense that effectively shut down Hapee’s big guns – Troy Rosario, Chris Newsome, Art dela Cruz, Scottie Thompson and Baser Amer.

“We did well on defense. We didn’t focus on stopping one single player. What stopped Team Hapee and that was the key. That’s how it’s going to be again in Game 3. As I’ve been telling the players, we have off nights offensively but as long as we play good defense we have a good chance to win ball games,” Macaraya said.

“We expect Hapee to make some adjustments. But I have so much confidence in my players. They are motivated and very determined to win the championship. We’ll see what happens. Miracles happen every day and we could be lucky.”

Undoubtedly, Hapee remains the heavy favorite to win its second title with its depth and experience but observers insist Rosario, Newsome and Dela Cruz will have to impose their presence.

“We will try to make the adjustments [for Game 3]. We are hoping that we can bring more energy defensively for Thursday’s final game,” said Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc.

The absence of starting center Ola Adeogun (reportedly experiencing some muscle soreness in his legs) in Game 2 visibly hurt the reigning Aspirants’ Cup champions. The 6-foot-10 Nigerian, remains a doubtful starter for Game 3 and that could spell trouble for the Fresh Fighters.