Ola Adeogun delivered big in the third quarter to help Hapee put away Cagayan Valley, 82-74, in the opener of their best-of-three titular series for the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The 6-foot-9 Nigerian center scored nine points in the third and keyed an 11-4 run that practically took the fight away from the Rising Suns, who clawed back from a 20-point deficit.
By avenging their 77-80 loss to the team that dealt them their only defeat in the eliminations, the Fresh Fighters move on the threshold of clinching their first championship after leaving the basketball scene for nearly six years.
Hapee can wrap up the series on Thursday with Game 2 to be played at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
“Ola and Troy (Rosario) have been the work horses of our team. I can’t ask for more from them than finish the race. It will be much harder on Thursday but I’m hopeful they will continue to hold the forth for us,” said Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanco in praise of his two hardworking bigs.
Adeougun finished with 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds off the bench while Rosario added 16 on 7 of 10 shooting.
Game 1 appeared to be a walk in the park after the Fresh Fighters opened a 35-15 advantage early in the second quarter.
But the Rising Suns were far from finished.
With Don Trollano and Moala Tautuaa hitting their shots, the top seed slowly fought their way back in the game and pulled within 46-50 on Trollano’s jumper halfway through the third.
That was when Adeogun took over to give the Fresh Fighters some cushion. He hit a pair of free throws, scored in traffic then hit a alley-hoop shot and 1 during that decisive run.
“I thought today we turned Game 1into a defense oriented series. Cagayan has been averaging 100 points the past three games. Hopefully, we can slow them down the next game,” Magsanoc said.
Art dela Cruz Jr. scored 11 points and Baser Amer chipped in 9 as Hapee’s bench outscored Cagayan’s , 51-33.
Moala Tautuaa scored 16 points and and grabbed 15 rebounds for Cagayan.
Hapee 82 – Adeogun 22, Rosario 16, Dela Cruz 11, Amer 9, Lanete 9, Parks 6, Newsome 6, Thompson 6, Newsome 3, Elorde 1, Mendoza 0, Long 0, Hayes 0.
Cagayan Valley 74 – Tautuaa 16, Mabuac 14, Trollano 13, Melano 12, Salamat 7, Celada 4, Dilay 3, Galliguez 3, Flores 2, Austria 0, TAyongtong 0, Santos 0.
Quarers: 29-11; 45-32; 67-54; 82-74.