Phoenix holds off Cafe France in finals opener



Phoenix-FEU survived a late rally by top seed CafeFrance, 82-78, to grab a 1-0 lead in a best-of-five Finals duel in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

Missing the two team’s elimination duel, Roger Pogoy made his presence felt with 18 points and nine rebounds to power the Accelerators.

“Nakita ko naman na laging lumalaban yung mga bata,” said Phoenix head coach Eric Gonzales. “Yung kabilang team, gusto rin manalo, but faith without work is dead. It’s not about believing, it’s about doing.”

Ed Daquioag contributed 16 markers, five boards, and three assists, while Mac Belo also registered a double-double of 15 points and 13 rebounds with three blocks.

Mike Tolomia was again all over the court in this game, nearly nabbing another triple-double with 13 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds, while Russel Escoto chipped in 12 markers and 10 boards.

With their offensive prowess in full display, the Accelerators erected a 20-point lead, 51-31 after a Daquioag triple midway through the third.

Rod Ebondo and Paul Zamar helped CafeFrance trim Phoenix’s lead down to just three, 79-76, with 18.1 seconds remaining before Daquioag and Escoto calmly buried free throws to preserve the win.

“Ine-expect naman namin yung fightback nila. Ang importante lang, wag huminto,” said Gonzales.

But it’s not just the offense that clicked for Phoenix-FEU as its defense limited CafeFrance to a paltry 29 percent shooting through three quarters.

“There’s no such thing as perfect defense, ang importante yung perfect effort. Magkakamali at magkakamali kami pero dapat hindi mawala yung effort,” said Gonzales.

Ebondo paced the Bakers with 16 points, 18 rebounds, and two blocks, while Zamar got 12 markers and five boards.

Game 2 is on Tuesday at San Juan Arena at 12 noon.

The scores:

PHOENIX-FEU 82 – Pogoy 18, Daquioag 16, Belo 15, Tolomia 13, Ru. Escoto 12, Ri. Escoto 4, Andrada 3, Jose 1, Inigo 0, Mendoza 0, Pascual 0, Tamsi 0.

CAFE FRANCE 78 – Ebondo 16, Zamar 12, Casino 11, Abundo 8, Jeruta 8, Manlangit 8, Opiso 5, Cruz 4, Anunciacion 2, Celso 2, De Leon 2, Arim 0, Villahermosa 0.

Quarters: 17-12, 41-29, 65-50, 82-78.