The Café France-Centro Escolar University Bakers barged into the semifinals with an 86-75 victory over the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers in their quarterfinals clash, Thursday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Paul Desiderio notched 16 points, banking on three three-pointers, to go with four rebounds and two assists, while Congolese big man Rod Ebondo tallied 16 markers, 11 boards, and three blocks in the win.
Returning forward Joseph Sedurifa also registered 15 points, eight rebounds, and four assists, while JK Casino had 15 markers, 11 coming in the third quarter pull-away, on top of five dimes.
Crawling back from a 10-point hole, 32-22, late in the second period, the Bakers exploded for 33 points in the third frame to take control and hold a 65-55 advantage.
Tey Teodoro refused to let JRU sink that easily, slicing the lead to just five, 70–65 with 4:50 remaining, but Desiderio rattled back-to-back treys. Sedurifa also nailed another three-pointer with 1:09 remaining to finally put the Heavy Bombers to sleep.
Café France will now face off against second-seed Racal Tile Masters in a best-of-3 semifinals series.
However, coach Egay Macaraya aired his concerns, as he felt that the quarterfinal duel had exposed the Bakers’ glaring weaknesses.
“I think this game really showed that our weakness is when the defense goes to a zone. We must make our outside shots so that we can also get the ball down low to Ebondo,” he said.
Teodoro carried the JRU with 18 points, two rebounds, and two assists, while Jhaps Bautista got 14 markers, five boards, and three dimes in the loss.
Cafe France-CEU (86) – Desiderio 16, Ebondo 16, Casino 15, Sedurifa 15, Calisaan 9, Faundo 6 Arim 3, Jeruta 2, Manlangit 2, Wamar 2, Aquino 0, Guinitaran 0, Veron 0.
JRU (75) – Teodoro 18, Bautista 14, Amboludto 10, Dela Virgen 8, Marquez 8, Publico 7, Lasquety 6, Poutouochi 4, Astilla 0.
Quarterscores: 15-22, 32-38, 65-55, 86-75.