Third-ranked Cebuana Lhuillier Gems shook off Café France’s comeback bid in the fourth quarter to beat the Bakers, 82-77, and clinch a semifinal spot in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
With the win, the Gems will face second-seed Big Chill in the best-of-three semifinals starting on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena.
But the Gems played with a lackluster effort in the second half as they saw their 11-point halftime lead slipped away before Vic Manuel and Lester Alvarez took over in the fourth.
“I have no idea what happened. We just lost our poise. I was a bit disappointed with our performance but we also need close games like these in the semis,” said Cebuana Lhuillier coach Beaujing Acot.
Cebuana Lhuillier had a 44-33 lead at the half but Café France’s Mike Parala scored 11 of his 13 points in the third period to prevent a Gems runaway and remain in contention to extend the series into a deciding second game.
Marion Magat’s back-to-back baskets pulled Café France to within six points, 62-68, but Manuel scored two of four free throws and Alvarez converted a three-pointer to increase the Gems’ lead once again, 73-62.
Manuel finished the game with 22 points while Alvarez pumped in 11 points for the Gems.
Four players scored in double figures for Café France with Jens Knuttel and Magat leading the way with 17 points but the early deficit was just too much to overcome for the Bakers.