MOALA Tautuaa nailed a free throw with 2.7 seconds left as Cebuana Lhuillier nipped Café France, 86-85, on Monday in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the JCSGO gym in Quezon City.
Tautuaa finished with 34 points and 13 rebounds in his first game with the Gems, which completed a fightback from 21 points down. The Gems were still eight points behind with three minutes left and Tautuaa’s shot from the stripe capped the run.
It was a rousing debut for Tautuaa, who signed with the Gems this conference after playing for Cagayan Valley in the Aspirants Cup.
After Simon Enciso tied the game with a triple with 16 seconds to play in the fourth, Tautuaa stole Café France’s inbound pass on the next possession. Off a timeout, Tautuaa was fouled by Rod Ebondo, sending the Fil-Tongan to the line.
This time, Tautuaa came through in the clutch, sinking the last of his two free throws in the dying seconds — a stark contrast to his previous game last conference when he missed two charities in regulation for the Rising Suns in Game Two of the Aspirants Cup finals eventually won by Hapee.
Cebuana Lhuillier coach Boycie Zamar said the Gems, one of the favorites to win this conference’s crown, still have a lot of work to do.
“We can’t be overwhelmed na malakas kami on paper. You have to prove it on the court,” said Zamar.
Café France already had a 73-52 lead and was still ahead, 84-76, with 2:46 left in the fourth. Maverick Ahanmisi, however, missed three free throws including two that could have been the game-clincher with 22.7 ticks remaining to give the Gems a chance, 85-82.
The Bakers also failed to take advantage after recovering from a 17-28 deficit in the second period to post big leads in the third period.
Cebuana Lhuillier (86)—Tautuaa 34, Corpuz 15, Torres 10, Enciso 9, J. Mangahas 5, Acibar 4, A. Mangahas 4, Zamar 3, Vosotros 2, Acosta 0, Bautista 0, Marata 0.
Café France (85)—Ahanmisi 19, Sedurifa 18, Nimes 10, Cortez 10, Abundo 8, Ebondo 8, Andrada 6, De Leon 4, Noble 2, Jeruta 0, Miranda 0, Batino 0.
Quarterscores: 20-16; 32-38; 55-75; 86-85.