A SHORTHANDED Hapee showed plenty of bite as it stunned Cebuana Lhuilllier, 82-71, to draw first blood in their PBA D-League Foundation Cup semifinal series on Monday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig.
Hardly missing the services of Gilas cadet members Baser Amer, Troy Rosario, and Scottie Thompson as well as Ray Parks and Garvo Lanete, the Fresh Fighters gained control early and never let up against the surprisingly sluggish top-seeded sluggish Gems.
Ola Adeogun imposed his will in the paint, scattering 25 points, 14 boards, one block, and one assist, while San Beda teammate Art de la Cruz tallied 23 points, nine boards, and seven assists on top of two steals for Hapee.
The reigning Aspirants’ Cup champions thus moved on the cusp of a second successive finals appearance in the development league.
The Fresh Fighters also pounced on the second-half absence of Cebuana star slotman Moalaa Tautuaa, who went out early in the third quarter after suffering an ankle injury.
“I think we caught them on an off day,” Fresh Fighters coach Ronnie Magsanoc said. “They were probably a little rusty and I thought our defense was able to hold up early.”
"As much as wala yung tatlong national players nag-communicate silang lahat,” the NCAA champion mentor added. “I think they're also inspired by the fact that we win together, we lose together.”
Paul Zamar and Simon Enciso led the fight for the Gems with 18 and 14 points, respectively, while Tautuaa finished with 11 points and 10 boards before being stretchered out.
Hapee 82 – Adeogun 25, Dela Cruz 23, Newsome 13, Elorde 6, Mendoza 6, Koga 4, Romero 3, Villahermosa 2, Long 0, Gamboa 0, Sorela 0.
Cebuana Lhuillier 71 – Zamar 18, Enciso 14, Tautuaa 11, Corpuz 8, Cabrera 8, Lopez 6, Van Opstal 3, Mangahas 2, Bautista 1, Mangahas J 0, Sarangay 0.
Quarterscores: 30-19; 51-40; 71-51: 82-71.