A NEW-LOOK Cebuana Lhuillier team opened its PBA D-League Aspirants Cup campaign with an 86-76 win over Boracay Rum on Tuesday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
June Dizon churned 18 points, including key baskets late in the fourth, while James Mangahas also had 18 of his own in the Gem’s rousing victory.
Raymond Aguilar and Eric Suguitan added 10 points each for Cebuana Lhuillier.
The Gems lost four key players from last conference’s team, including top star Vic Manuel, now a rookie for Globalport.
Also gone from the team are Simon Atkins and Yousif Taha – now both in the pros - while Kevin Alas has moved over to three-time defending champion NLEX.
But the transition has been smooth so far for the Gems.
“We are still in the process (of adjustment) talaga,” said coach Beaujing Acot. “We didn’t get big names, we only get role players who we wanted to be big... In order for them to be big, we have to be patient with one another.”
Dizon, a role player in the University of Santo Tomas championship team of 2006, answered the call in the stretch run, scoring four consecutive points during a short but telling 5-0 run that gave the Gems an 80-71 lead and cooled off the Waves’ comeback bid.
Cebuana also tightened its defense by limiting Jeff Viernes and Ken Acibar to only seven points combined.
“We were looking to stop Viernes and Acibar. We know that (Toto) Bandaying will get his points, but the crucial part was to stop Viernes. We wanted to limit them in the first two quarters, we weren’t able to achieve it… Pero masaya ako sa depensa noong second half,” said Acot.
The Gems appeared ready to pull away for good by scoring seven unanswered points in the third period for a 61-52 lead, but the Waves were able to cut the deficit to 67-66 early in the fourth.
Then, Dizon came into the fray scoring the much needed baskets for the Gems.
Cebuana Lhuillier (86) - Mangahas 18, Dizon 18, Aguilar 10, Suguitan 10, Zamar 8, Custodio 7, Sarangay 6, Leynes 4, Mabayo 3, Buensuceso 2, Trinidad 0, Bagares 0.
Boracay Rum (76) - Taha 25, Bandaying 20, Viernes 7, Ilagan 7, Eguilos 6, Siruma 5, Sabellina 4, Foronda 2, Tolentino 0, Acibar 0.
Quarterscores: 22-19; 37-40; 63-55; 86-76.