AN undermanned and weary Hapee brandished championship poise under pressure to withstand Cebuana Lhuillier, 73-66, on Monday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig and advance to the PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals opposite Café France.
The Fresh Fighters, missing Gilas cadets Baser Amer, Troy Rosario, and Scottie Thompson, led most of the way, but had to weather a late storm by a Gems side that is also shorthanded but had been fancied to pull off the gutsy win.
Ola Adeogun and Art de la Cruz, just a day after a championship conquest with San Beda in the Filoil Flying V Cup, delivered this time for the Fresh Fighters, who moved to a second straight finals appearance in the developmental league following their Aspirants Cup title run.
“How we were able to get through it is a testament to the audacity of the players,” Fresh Fighters coach Ronnie Magsanoc said. “They were challenged because talagang malakas yung kalaban.”
The Fresh Fighters thus set up a finals meeting against the Bakers, who swept Cagayan Valley in their own Final Four tussle, with the best-of-three series starting on Thursday.