Hapee shoots for Aspirants’ Cup crown vs Cagayan

Hapee attempts to finish off Cagayan Valley and clinch the 2015 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup when the two teams face-off in Game 2 of their best-of-three titular series on Thursday.

Capitalizing on their championship experience and poise, the Fresh Fighters dominated the series’ opener on Monday to put away the Rising Suns, 82-74, and sort of avenge their 77-80 loss to the same team that inflicted their only defeat in the eliminations.

Ola Adeogun and Troy Rosario made the big difference. The Nigerian center tallied 21 points and grabbed 15 boards and did a good job slowing down Cagayan’s Moala Tautuaa while Rosario added 16 on 7-of-10 shooting as Hapee move on the verge of another championship celebration to mark its return to the basketball scene after a five-year hiatus.

Scottie Thompson and Baser Amer also made their presence felt, particularly on defense and steadying the team in the crucial third quarter when the Rising Suns pulled threateningly close at 46-50.

Game 2 comes off at 3 p.m. at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.

Leaving nothing chance, Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc has cautioned his troops to be ready for a more physical and demanding encounter as the back-to-the-wall Rising Suns fights to live another day and try to extend the series to a deciding Game 3.

This marks the second “do-or die” game for the Rising Suns, who also lost in Game 1 of their semifinal series against the Cebuana Lhuilier Gems before winning the next two games to advance to the Finals.

“Ola and Troy (Rosario) have been the work horses of our team. I can’t ask for more from them than to finish the race. It will be much harder on Thursday but I’m hopeful they will continue to hold the forth for us. Scottie and Baser also gave us a big lift.” said Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc in praise of his two hardworking troops.

He added: “Hopefully we could slow them [Rising Suns] down again.” Before Game 1, Cagayan Valley, which swept the 11-game eliminations, has been averaging 100 points the previous three games.

Many observers believe the top-seeded Rising Suns can bounce back but Tautuaa, the US-born Fil-Tongan who became the focal point of Cagayan’s title drive, needs a lot of help.

The 6-7 Taatuaa scored 16 points and pulled down 15 boards but theRising Suns usually high-scoring backcourt didn’t click in the opener.

Abel Galliguez, who normally deliver in the clutch, managed just three points on 0-6 shooting, Eric Salamat was 2-of-6 from the field while Alex Autria made just one attempt and missed.