Aaron Jeruta played the role of a hero, taking charge in the fourth period to keep the defending champions alive in the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup with a 78-68 victory over Phoenix Thursday at Strike Gym in Bacoor, Cavite.
The diminutive point guard uncorked eight of his 13 points in the fourth frame to stave off the pesky rally from the Accelerators.
“He played two consecutive games na pangit, so bumawi lang sya. Hopefully next time, madala pa rin nya yung magandang laro,” said coach Egay Macaraya, who is coming back from his one-game suspension.
Rod Ebondo topped the Bakers with 19 markers, 18 rebounds, and two blocks, while Carl Bryan Cruz had 17 points and eight boards in the win.
“Good defense. The boys wanted to win more than Phoenix. Gusto pa nila ng isang laro and everybody stepped up,” said Macaraya.
The Bakers came back from a 42-34 deficit and found their bearings in the second half, where they grabbed a lead as high as 12, 78-66 late.
Cafe France also held the hot-shooting Phoenix squad to a measly 29-percent shooting from the field.
The last two D-League champions cross paths anew on Tuesday, with the victor making a return trip to the Finals.
Mac Belo carried Phoenix with 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Mike Tolomia had 20 markers, four boards, three assists, and two steals.
CAFE FRANCE 78 – Ebondo 19, Cruz 17, Jeruta 13, Abundo 10, Zamar 7, Casino 4, De Leon 4, Manlangit 2, Parala 2, Custodio 0, Opiso 0.
PHOENIX 68 – Belo 23, Tolomia 20, Daquioag 10, Pogoy 7, Andrada 2, Escoto 2, Inigo 2, Jamito 2, Batino 0, Colina 0, Knuttel 0, Mendoza 0, Tamsi 0.
Quarters: 12-16, 29-34, 55-52, 78-68.