Experience spelled the difference as Hapee Toothpaste, gunning for a back-to-back championship, outlasted a pesky and determined CaféFrance squad down the stretch, 83-72, and moved within a win of capturing the PBA D-League Foundation Cup crown yesterday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
With no team leading by more than five points after three quarters, the Fresh Fighters went to their three-headed attack on the perimeter in Chris Newsome, Baser Amer and Scottie Thompson to take the fight out of the Bakers.
Amer, Newsome and Thompson scored consecutive baskets to turn a shaky 66-62 lead into a 72-62 spread with 3:03 remaining in the game.
CaféFrance, however, refused to roll over and die as Samboy de Leon made things interesting with back-to-back triples that cut Hapee’s lead to just four, 76-72, with barely a minute to play.
But Amer rose to the occasion once again, knocking down a three-pointer and Troy Rosario converting a basket to help Hapee draw first blood in their best-of-three series.
Hapee can hoist its second straight title with a victory on Monday at the same venue.
“The race is to get to two wins first. Nakauna lang kami, pero there are still a lot of things that needs to be done,” said Hapee Coach Ronnie Magsanoc, whose team won despite keeping Ola Adeogun on the bench in the second half.
Newsome led Hapee with 18 points and seven rebounds, Adeogun still finished with 12 points while Rosario and Amer added 11 markers in their first game since helping the Philippines retain Southeast Asian Games cage title.
Thompson, also a member of the SEAG squad, finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists while making life difficult for the Bakers’ dynamic guard combo of Ahanmisi and Eloy Poligrates.
Ahanmisi was held to just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting while Poligrates went 3-of-20 despite scoring 10 markers.
“Those guys provide the offense for CaféFrance. I have so much respect for them and the effort of our players to stop them is really commendable,” Magsanoc noted.
Jam Cortes led CaféFrance with 15 points and seven rebounds even as Michael Miranda and de Leon added 11 points each.
Making its first finals appearance in the league, CaféFrance exchanged leads with Hapee before faltering in the payoff period.
HAPEE 83 – Newsome 18, Adeogun 12, Rosario 11, Amer 11, Thompson 10, Dela Cruz 9, Villahermosa 6, Romero 4, Mendoza 2, Long 0, Elorde 0.
CAFÉFRANCE 72 – Cortes 15, De Leon 11, Miranda 11, Poligrates 10, Sedurifa 9, Ahanmisi 7, Ebondo 5, Abundo 2,Andrada 2, Batino 0, Jeruta 0.
Quarters: 23-22; 38-37; 60-56; 83-72.