MANILA, Philippines—Cebuana Lhuillier and Hapee try to wrap up their respective semifinal matches on Monday to arrange a title duel for the 2015 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.
In an unexpected twist of events, the sixth seeded Gems stunned Cagayan Valley, 89-85, in the opener of their best-of-three series and can advance to their only second finals appearance in the league with another shocker in Game 2 scheduled at 2 o’clock at the San Juan Arena.
The other semifinal series between the second seed Fresh Fighters and third seed Café France Bakers comes off at 4 p.m.
A series many thought will be a walk in the park for the Rising Suns is shaping up into a farewell party for the top seed, who swept the 11-game elimination round but are now one game away from elimination.
“This is the semifinals. Things happen. I thought my players showed some character,” said Cebuana Lhuillier coach Boysie Zamar, who visibly lost his focus in the second quarter that almost cost them Game 1.
“It’s my fault. I lost my head and I apologized to the players,” confessed Zamar, whose verbal exchange with Rising Suns shooter Don Trollano prompted Cagayan Valley coach Alvin Pua to rush over and reportedly challenged Zamar to a fistfight.
The Gems, who dispatched twice-to-beat Jumbo Plastic in the quarterfinals, dominated the Risings Suns in Game 1 as center Norberto Torres contained Moala Tautuaa, who managed just five points on two touches in 19 minutes.
Cebuana’s guards starring Simon Enciso (22 points), Allan Mangahas (17 points) and Almond Vosotros (15 points) also outplayed Cagayan’s high-scoring backcourt as the Gems opened a 19-point lead after one quarter and by as many as 26 points in the second period.
“They are 11-0 in the eliminations. They can comeback anytime. But we’re taking it one game at a time. For us, every game is a knockout game,” Zamar said. Cebuana hasn’t been to the Finals since losing to NLEX in the 2010 Foundation Cup Finals.
Notwithstanding their overwhelming victory in the opener, Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc also anticipates a tough challenge from Café France in Game 2.
“You can be beaten any time. We have to rise to the challenge as we go deeper into the playoffs. Café France is tough team and well coached. So we we have to be ready,” Magsanoc said.