Displaying championship mettle in the best way possible, Phoenix-FEU soared above the pressure in overtime of Game 5 to dethrone CafeFrance Bakers, 88-81, and rule the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup on Thursday at the Ynares Center in Pasig City.
After an intense back-and-forth action in the fourth quarter, the FEU duo of Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia presided over Phoenix’s overtime assault, combining for 11 points to pull away against the Bakers as they put in the bag another sweet title run, this time under the guidance of coach Eric Gonzalez.
Struggling at the start, Belo woke up in the 2nd half that paved the way for the Accelerators’ fightback as he finished with a game-high 25 points with 13 rebounds while Tolomia backstopped him with 15 points, 7 boards, and 3 assists in the breathtaking D-League finale.
“Unang tinuturo ko sa kanila, hindi pwedeng gumive-up, bawal mag-give up,” said an emotional Gonzalez to the press. “Pinagusapan namin sa huddle, pagod na sila at pagod na kami. Ngayon pa ba kami bibitaw? Sabi nila, ‘Laban lang kami.'”
True enough, coach Gonzalez’ wards erased an 11-point deficit midway in the 3rd quarter and sustained the momentum before the determined Bakers countered and tied the game at 74 in the final 19 seconds.
RR Pogoy and Russel Escoto missed a potential game-winner for the Accelerators while CafeFrance’s veteran Paul Zamar’s off-balance floater was way off mark that sent the game into overtime where Belo and Tolomia rose to the occasion.
“Yun ang tinuturo namin sa kanila, na bawal mag-give up. Sanay lahat sila sa bakbakan at lahat ito, blessing ni God yan,” said Gonzales.
With Phoenix mainly composed of FEU standouts, Belo and company has now won 3 championships in a span of 5 months after their successful campaign in the UAAP Season 78 and National Collegiate Championship (NCC) while their former UAAP rival and now teammate Ed Daquioag got his first taste of championship.
Refusing to back down, Zamar led the way for CafeFrance, pouring 7 of his 25 points in the extension while Rod Ebondo and Joseph Manlangit combined for 28 but failed to win 2 in a row in the D-League after bagging Foundation Cup last June 2015. – By Jason Mercene
PHOENIX-FEU 88 – Belo 25, Tolomia 15, Jose 11, Ru. Escoto 10, Pogoy 9, Tamsi 8, Andrada 4, Mendoza 3, Daquioag 2, Ri. Escoto 1, Iñigo 0.
CAFEFRANCE 81 – Zamar 20, Ebondo 14, Manlangit 14, De Leon 11, Villahermosa 10, Abundo 4, Cruz 4, Jeruta 4, Arim 0, Casino 0.
Quarters: 14-13, 32-38, 56-62, 74-74, 88-81.