Cafe France-CEU Bakers fought back from a 24-point hole using a furious second half onslaught to record a 90-87 win over Caida Tile Masters Thursday in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
In a battle of two undefeated teams, the Bakers buckled down defensively and leaned on the hot hands of Carl Cruz and Paul Zamar to complete a fight back and extend their winning run to four straight wins.
The Bakers took solo leadership wirh a 4-0 card while the Tile Masters settled for a 3-1 record. Phoenix is the only other undefeated team left with a 3-0 slate.
“I said we are a new team. Medyo bago yung iba kaya kinakabahan but at least the team showed heart and we are still number one,” Cafe France head coach Egay Macaraya said.
“Nagalit lang ako sa bata dahil they just want to win the game in one position. Hindi talaga, kailanan natin dumepensa. That’s the only thing. They played good defense in the third and inunti-unti namin ang offense.”
After a sloppy first quarter which saw Caida trail by seven points, the Tile Masters went on a 30-6 romp to jump to a 51-24 second quarter cushion.
Caida opened the second period with 18 unanswered points, and outscored Cafe France 33-16 with Rey Nambatac scoring nine in the period alone. The Bakers were held without a field goal for over six minutes in the stretch.
But Cafe France also staged its run in the third period, with Rodrigue Ebondo pouring 10 points including an and-one play to tie the count at 58 apiece.
Philip Paniamogan nailed back to back threes to end the dry spell for the Tile Masters but Carl Cruz scored five straight of his own including a triple to push the Bakers ahead 66-64.
Zamar then took charge as his five straight points extended the Cafe France lead up to 85-77. But Caida fought back as it went to pressure Cafe France on defense, forcing turnovers and scoring easy baskets.
Jonathan Grey cut the deficit to only one, 87-86, before Ebondo scored split to make it 88-86 for the Bakers.
Jio Jalalon had a chance to tie the match for the Tile Masters but he missed both foul shots in the final 1:19. Such misses proved to be costly as Cruz nailed a jumper on the other end to make it 90-86.
Caida had its chances towards the end but turned the ball over twice even as Paniamogan missed two long range tries in the end.
Cruz had 26 points on 8-for-11 shooting while Zamar added 25 points on 9-for-13 field goals. The duo combined for 20 points in the fourth period. Cafe France outscored Caida in the second half, 50-31.
Ebondo meanwhile gave an all-around effort with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks.
Cafe France-CEU (90) – Cruz 26, Zamar 25, Ebondo 18, Jeruta 9, De Leon 8, Villahermosa 3, Manlangit 1.
Caida (87) – Paniamogan 15, Nambatac 13, Perkins 12, Cabrera 11, Jalalon 9, Lozada 7, Grey 6, Javier 6, Corpuz 2, Gabawan 2, Maiquez 2, Robles 2.
Quarterscores: 24-23, 40-56, 67-67, 90-87.