MANILA, Philippines—After a struggling campaign last conference, Tanduay Light coach Lawrence Chongson is keeping his fingers crossed things will be a lot better this time around.
Tanduay Light used a strong first quarter to take control and the Rhum Masters went on to rout the Jumbo Plastic Giants, 79-61, to open their campaign in the PBA D-League Foundation’s Cup on Monday at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao Quezon City.
In the second game, Mo Tautuaa made one of two free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining to lift Cebuana Lhuillier past Café France, 86-85.
Tautuaa finished with a game-high 34 points and had 13 rebounds for a double-double and his winning free throw capped huge comeback by the Gems, who trailed by as many as 21 points and by 76-84 in the last 2:46 left.
“My free throw is a like a girl. It’s got different moods. It’s on and off. But one is enough to win the game for us” said Tautuaa, who maintained he is not affected by his poor free throw shooting. “This is basketball, man. This is what I flew thousands of miles away and I’m not gonna let any pressure to get into to me.”
Simon Enciso’s 3-pointer with 16.8 seconds left tied the count at 85-85 before Cafe France threw away a crucial possession with a bad inbound pass that was intercepted by Tautuaa.
It was a tough loss for the Bakers, who appeared to have locked the win when Yutien Andrada hit back-to-back baskets for a 73-52 advantage late in the third.
Maverick Ahanmisi tallied 19 points for the Café France, but missed three of four free throws in the closing minutes that could have sealed the win for the Bakers.
Roi Sumang scored 17 points and had eight assists while providing stellar court leadership for the Rhum Masters who dominated the Giants with excellent shooting and aggressive defense that kept Jumbo Plastic from scoring easy baskets. Aljon Mariano tallied 16 on 3 of 4 shooting from 3-point range and grabbed nine
“One win does not make a conference. We just caught Jumbo flat footed because they’ve got a lot of new players. It’s still a long way to go and this win won’t mean anything if we can’t sustain out effort,” Chongson said.
Chongson said he has not set a goal for the team this conference other than to play their best every game. “Every game is an acid test so we have to always be ready to play.”
Tanduay Light opened a 21-9 advantage in the first quarter as the Giants struggled with their offense. Jumbo Plastic, which lost to Cebuana Lhuillier in the quarterfinals, made just 4 of 21 attempts in the first quarter and shot 31 percent (22 of 71) for the game.
The Rhum Masters led by eight points at halftime but ripped the game apart in the third as Jaypee Belencion hit three of four consecutive 3-pointers that gave Tanduay a comfortable 55-32 cushion late in the period. Belencion, who was on a shooting slump last conference, tallied 14 points off the bench incuding 4 of 9 shooting from behind the arc.
“During the break we dedicated a lot of time trying to revive his confidence. It’s just a matter of getting back into the groove and taking away the cobwebs that he was once a pro back to playing in the D-League,” Chongson said.
Dennis Lee Villamor, who came off the bench and top scored with eight points, underscored Jumbo Plastic’s poor offense.
Tanduay Light 79 – Sumang 17, Mariano 16, Belencion 14, Santos 9, Foronda 7, Cenal 4, Escueta 4, Rono 4, Jumao-As 2, Ilagan 1, Eriobu 1, Tagarda 0, Dela Paz 0.
Jumbo Plastic 61 – Villamor 9, Sabellina 8, Tiongson 8, Perez 8, Khobuntin 7, Paniamogan 6, Petilos 6, Avillanosa 5, Rosales 2, Almario 2, Purdy 0.
Quarters: 21-9; 34-26; 63-49; 79-61.
Cebuana Lhuillier 86 – Tautuaa 34, Corpuz 156, Torres 10, Enciso 9, J. Mangahas 4, 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, Jerura 0, Miranda 0, Batino 0.
Quarters: 20-16; 32-38; 55-75; 86-85.