Cafe France battled back from 24 points down and showed the heart of the champion, escaping Caida Tiles, 90-87, to stay undefeated in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.
Carl Bryan Cruz stepped up big for the Bakers with a game-high 26 points on an 8-of-11 shooting from the field, alongside five rebounds to keep the Bakers unscathed at 4-0.
Paul Zamar also was a spark with 25 markers, on a 4-of-6 shooting from threes, four boards, and three assists, while Rod Ebondo got another double-double with 18 points, 14 boards, and four blocks.
“I said na we’re a new team, and nakita natin na I only have eight guys who can play these kind of games. Yung mga bago, yung iba kinakabahan pa. But at least, the team showed heart, and even though we’re a new team, we showed that we’re a champion,” said coach Egay Macaraya, who had to wake up his wards after a lackluster first half saw CafeFrance trailing by as much as 24 points, 52-28.
Ebondo and Cruz nailed big shots in the final two minutes for the Bakers, allowing them to hold a 90-86 lead going to the final 1:09.
Chris Javier split from the charity stripe, and a missed drive from Paul Zamar gave Caida one more chance to snatch the game.
Unfortunately, Philip Paniamogan missed two potential game-tying treys as the Tile Masters suffered their first defeat in four games.
Paniamogan went 3-of-6 from threes to pace Caida (3-1) with 15 points, while Rey Nambatac had an all-around effort of 13 markers, nine rebounds, and seven assists.
In the first game, Tanduay made it back-to-back wins, fending off Wangs Basketball late, 90-75.
Rudy Lingganay and Reden Celda anchored the Rhum Masters in the fourth quarter, finishing the game on a 17-4 run to cone away with the W.
Also not helping Wangs was its four crucial turnovers in the last two minutes, quashing any hopes for a fightback from the Couriers.
Lingganay poured six of his 16 points in the payoff period, while Adrian Santos also went for 16 markers and five rebounds in the win.
Celda also got 14 points and five boards, while Von Pessumal had 12 markers.
“Sana back-to-back-to-back-to-back pa. Pero malayo pa yan,” said coach Lawrence Chongson, whose Rhum Masters improved to 2-2.
Despite the morale boosting victory against the Couriers, Chongson knows that their next games against AMA University and CafeFrance could well decide Tanduay’s standing come the playoffs.
“Our next games would determine if we’ll get to the middle of the pack or further down sa cellar,” he said. “The tough battles are still ahead. Yung malalaking isda, susunod pa lang kaya kailangan pa namin ng mas malalaking sibat.”
Clark Bautista and new recruit Mark Romero topped Wangs (1-3) with 13 points apiece in the defeat.