The success of CaféFrance in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup is one for the books.
Ranged against well-heeled teams in the league, the Bakers appear like a nonentity.
But the desire to excel, the system and the bond that kept the Bakers together for years did wonders as they brought down a giant in Hapee Toothpaste to win their first ever crown in the tournament serving as the farm league of the PBA.
The Centro Escolar University-backed Bakers thus became the first team to win a title in a pivotal Game 3 of the series and the fourth champion team after NLEX, Blackwater and Hapee, the winner of the Aspirants Cup last February.
Another feather to its cap was it became the third school-based squad to win a title also after NLEX and Hapee.
While they got a huge boost from the likes of Maverick Ahanmisi, Eloy Poligrates and Jam Cortez, the Bakers’ game still revolved around the CEU stalwarts.
Rodrigue Ebondo, who was a big part of CEU’s run in the NAASCU in the previous years, emerged as the biggest star when he nailed the game-winning shot.
The winning combination of Samboy de Leon and Joseph Sedurifa, the NAASCU’s last two MVPs, was also deadly with their ability to knock down big baskets from beyond the arc.
Even the guards, Mon Abundo and Aaron Jeruta, stood their ground against the more popular players from the D-League.
In Game 3, they were even the players who ran the show despite having Poligrates and Ahanmisi at their disposal.
This was a result of a system which ran on developing good players from scratch.
And that’s something CaféFrance owner Johnny Yap is proud of.
“That’s our main objective when we started this team. We wanted to develop players. There are bad seasons and good ones but the main goal is to really develop players,” said Yap in a mini-press conference after the match.
“It’s a way of giving back, giving back to the players who have worked really hard through the years,” he added.
For players though, it’s a different thing altogether. Playing with chips on their shoulders, all they wanted to do was to prove that they can be at par with Hapee players.
Not only did they hang on but they conquered them.
“Siyempre masaya ako kasi napatunayan namin na kayang kaya namin. Siyempre pare–parehas lang naman kaming nagpra-practice, pare-parehas lang kaming nagba-basketball. Siguro napatunayan namin na kaya namin sumabay,” said Sedurifa who’s speaking on behalf of his teammates.
For coach Egay Macaraya, words seem to have run out of his mouth when asked about the effort of his players from CEU.
While he was keen on saying that it was a total team effort, he had something special to say to his players from CEU, the same players that he’s handling in the NAASCU.
“I’m just so proud of them. They wanted to prove something and they did.”