With Café France-Centro Escolar University big man Rod Ebondo denying the attempts of his teammates, Roger Pogoy took matters into his own hands by draining a triple from approximately 27 feet away from the rim with 2.3 seconds remaining. The shot lifted the Phoenix-Far Eastern University Accelerators to an 85-84 win over the Bakers, Thursday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.
Both teams were sloppy during the opening frame, with the Accelerators and the Bakers struggling to put points up on the scoreboard. Phoenix-FEU big man Yutien Andrada found success early on by defending Congolese big man Rod Ebondo, successfully swatting away his attempts on the inside. However, the Accelerator defense could not cleanly defend the penetrations of Café France’s guards. As a result, the Bakers made a living on the foul stripe in the latter half of the first quarter, going 4/5 on free throws, to go down by just a solitary point, 18-17.
Mike Tolomia was unceremoniously called for his third personal foul in the opening moments of the second frame, resulting in Achie Iñigo getting the bulk of point guard duties in the game. Moreover, Mac Belo and RR Pogoy carried the brunt of the offense, combining for 12 second-quarter points in a tight quarter. At the other end, the Bakers went lights-out from downtown to keep pace and, eventually, take the lead in the second stanza. Mar Villahermosa and Samboy de Leon were able to knock down three triples, while Ebondo joined in the long-range party with a three of his own to help give the Bakers a 37-35 lead going into the break.
“Medyo sloppy kami and we need to find a way to keep the game close as much as possible,” Phoenix-FEU head coach Eric Gonzales said about his team’s 34% shooting clip during the first half. “Kaya tina-timeout ko kasi chinallenge ko sila pag gusto ba talaga nila manalo.”
Carrying the momentum they gained in the second quarter, the Bakers blasted a 13-7 rally through Paul Zamar and Ebondo to gain a 50-42 lead four minutes into the third canto. A three-point play by Ebondo against Andrada, and a great find from Mon Abundo to a trailing Joseph Manlangit for a wide-open triple, later on gave Café France-CEU the biggest lead of the game, 58-46, with 3:19 remaining in the quarter. Tolomia and Iñigo closed the quarter strong for Phoenix-FEU to cut the deficit to just seven, 68-61, going into the final frame.
The Bakers continued to keep their opponents at bay for the first six minutes of the final frame as they held an 80-71 lead. A bevy of turnovers and careless fouls, though, led to the Accelerators’ surge. A hangtime move by Daquioag led to a three-point play against Ebondo, and was followed by a long two by Iñigo to cut the lead to just four with 2:55 remaining. After two free throws by Samboy de Leon, Daquioag was again able to convert on a circus layup to answer back. With Andrada playing badly and Raymar Jose still out with a hamstring injury, Richard Escoto then stepped up for Phoenix-FEU as he drained two clutch free throws to cut the lead to just two, 82-80, with 2:06 remaining. In the next play though, nerves got the better of him, as he missed two more free throws that would have tied the game.
With 1:05 remaining, Daquioag tried to go for a game-tying floater but the ball bounced off the backboard. With 32 ticks remaining, Abundo was able to drain a turnaround jumper over the outstretched arms of Tolomia to give his team a four-point cushion. Tolomia, though ,made amends afterwards, as he drained his patented off-the-board layup eight seconds after. Playing the foul game, Daquioag fouled Game Two hero Carl Cruz, but the former FEU Tamaraw missed both charities to give the Accelerators one last shot to at least tie the game with 19.1 remaining.
After a timeout, Tolomia was able to find the open lane for a layup but Ebondo, coming from the off-side, was able to swat the shot out of bounds. Daquioag tried to make a drive of his own but was again rejected by the CEU big man. However, the ball went into the hands of Iñigo, who then moved the ball to Pogoy. Pogoy took a moment to gather before knocking down a triple from 27 feet away and over the outstretched arms of Villahermosa, to put the Accelerators up 85-84 with 2.3 seconds remaining. With no timeouts left, Abundo threw a halfcourt heave but was way short, as the Accelerators take a 2-1 lead in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Finals.
“Unang-una, I give God glory. Wala na ko run, walang-wala na ako dun. Tapos thankful ako sa players kasi hindi sila bumigay,” an exasperated Gonzales shared after the game. “It was a designed play pero it went broken. Dinrive ni Mike butata! Dinrive ni Ed butata! Blessing ni God yun.”
Pogoy, who was just 4/21 from the field the entire game but was able to grab 12 boards, admitted that he had lost his confidence prior to making that shot. “Blessing na lang talaga ni Lord yun. Last na tira pa pumasok,” he said.
Mac Belo led all scorers with 22 points on 8/17 shooting. He was also able to grab seven boards and successfully steal the ball twice. Daquioag added 20 points and six boards.
For Cafe France-CEU, Ebondo continued his stellar play with 18 points and 18 rebounds. Paul Zamar added 12 markers, while De Leon notched 11 points in just 17 minutes of action.
Game Four of the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Finals is set to be played on Tuesday, April 12 at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Phoenix-FEU (85) – Belo 22, Daquioag 20, Inigo 15, Pogoy 10, Tolomia 8, Andrada 5, Escoto Ri. 5, Escoto Ru. 0, Mendoza 0, Tamsi 0.
Cafe France-CEU (84) – Ebondo 18, Zamar 12, De Leon 11, Villahermosa 10, Cruz 9, Casino 7, Jeruta 6, Manlangit 5, Celso 4, Abundo 2, Opiso 0.
Quarterscores: 18-17, 35-37, 61-68, 85-84