A FULL-FORCE Hapee thwarted a resolute Café France, 83-72, on Thursday to move on the cusp of the PBA D-League Foundation Cup championship.
Boosted by the return of Gilas cadets Troy Rosario, Baser Amer, and Scottie Thompson, the Fresh Fighters pounced on the Bakers’ paltry point-blank shooting, then mainstay Chris Newsome spearheaded their running game to draw first blood in the best-of-three series.
The reigning Aspirants’ Cup titlists can capture a second straight crown with a win in Game Two on Monday.
“We’re just one step ahead of them, but there’s a lot of work to be done,” Fresh Fighters coach Ronnie Magsanoc said.
Hapee’s hard work was evident in the opener as the powerhouse squad banked on a stingy defense that limited the Bakers to just 35 percent (28-of-81) shooting that fuelled their transition offense, ending up with 18 fastbreak points.
Newsome finished the Fresh Fighters’ several fastbreak plays to wound up with an all-around 18 points, seven boards, five assists, and one block in 33 minutes.
Rosario, Amer, and Thompson combined for 17 points in the final frame as the Gilas cadets trio surpassed the Bakers’ entire output by one in the entire quarter to break away from a nip-and-tuck affair.
Ola Adeogun led the fight early, scoring all his 11 points in the first half before having the luxury to rest the entire second half due to a hamstring injury as the SEA Games gold medalists took over.
Jam Cortes fired a team-high 15 points for Café France, but was held to two markers in the second half, while Samboy de Leon added 11 points, including six on back-to-back treys that put the Bakers within 76-72 with a little over a minute left in a rally that fell short.
HAPEE 83 – Newsome 18, Adeogun 12, Amer 11, Rosario 11, Thompson 10, Dela Cruz 9, Villahermosa 6, Romero 4, Mendoza 2, Elorde 0
CAFÉ FRANCE – 72 - Cortez 15, De Leon 11, Miranda 11, Poligrates 10, Sedurifa 9, Ahanmisi 7, Ebondo 5, Abundo 2, Andrada 2, Jeruta 0, Batino 0
Quarterscores: 23-22, 38-37, 60-56, 83-72
WATCH the interview with Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc after the game: