TANDUAY hung tough at crunch time as it handed Café France its first loss while sustaining its own resurgence in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup with a 79-74 decision on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Rhum Masters trailed most of the way, but unleashed a strong finishing kick to put an end to the Bakers’ five-game winning streak while extending their own winning run to four games after starting the conference with two losses.
“One streak had to end, pero mas backed against the wall kami,” Rhum Masters coach Lawrence Chongson said.
Reden Celda fired a team-high 12 points, but it was former pro Val Acuña, Jaypee Belencion, and Von Pessumal who hit the biggest baskets for Tanduay, which remained in the running for a Top Four berth that entails a twice to beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Café France is still on top of the nine-team standings.
“It’s one obstacle that we prepared for,” Chongson said of the Bakers, the reigning Foundation Cup champions. “Yung mental toughness namin had to be at least at ninety percent to be able to cope with a juggernaut like Café France.”
The Rhum Masters were still behind, 69-70, when Acuña hit a transition layup that sparked a 10-4 run to end the game.
Paul Zamar chipped in 13 points, the last two on a jumper that pulled the Bakers to within one, 73-72, but missed a layup and committed a turnover in the ensuing offensive possessions that hastened his team’s downfall.
Carl Cruz paced the Bakers with 15 markers, while Congolese big man Rod Ebondo added 14 points and 17 boards that went for naught.
TANDUAY 79 – Celda 12, Acuna 10, Belencion 10, Llagas 9, Wetherell 9, Santos 8, Javillonar 7, Lingganay 6, Pessumal 4, Eriobu 2, Tagarda 2, Belleza 0, Gotladera 0
CAFÉ FRANCE 74 – Cruz 15, Ebondo 14, Zamar 13, Opiso 8, Jeruta 6, Villahermosa 6, Abundo 5, De Leon 3, Anunciacion 2, Manlangit 2, Arim 0, Casino 0
Quarterscores: 22-24, 39-44, 52-57, 79-74