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Cafe France subdues Phoenix in OT of finals rematch


By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG--Cafe France-CEU and Phoenix's PBA D-League Aspirants Cup finals series was a classic.

And even their first meeting in the Foundation Cup can count as epic as well as the match went to overtime.

This time, however, the Bakers showed why they are the defending champs this conference.

Cafe France escaped with a 96-93 win against Phoenix, the reigning Aspirants Cup holders, at the Ynares Sports Arena on Thursday night.

The Bakers actually led by as much as nine at some points of the second and the third quarters and were up by seven, 75-68, with 3:26 remaining in regulation.

But the Accelerators went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to one, 75-74, with 1:13 left. Jammer Jamito actually had a chance to tie the game in the said juncture, but he could only make a split from the free throw line.

Mon Abundo made an open triple to give Cafe France some breathing space with 50.7 seconds to go in regulation.

Mike Tolomia, however, converted a clutch layup with 11.2 seconds on the clock to cut the lead back to two, 78-76.

Carl Cruz left the room open for the Accelerators as he only made one of two from the charity stripe with nine seconds remaining in regulation.

Tolomia took advantage of it by making all his three free throws off a foul by Paul Zamar, which eventually forced the extension.

Aaron Jeruta still put some drama in the dying seconds of regulation by getting a good look at the basket, but his buzzer-beater only hit the rim and failed to go in.

Cruz made up for the missed chance of sealing the win by leading the Bakers' 9-2 run to start the free basketball session for an 88-81 lead with 3:10 left. He scored their first seven points in overtime.

Tolomia and RR Pogoy connected on jumpers to draw Phoenix to within three, but Zamar and Cruz answered with their own buckets to bring the gap back to seven, 92-85, with 1:06 to go.

Pogoy got back at Cafe France with five straight points in just six seconds to draw Phoenix to within two, but he missed a crucial triple that would have given them the lead. Abundo made him pay by sinking two charities to put the Bakers up, 94-90, with 14.7 seconds left.

Tolomia still kept the game interesting with an off-the-glass trey with 8.5 seconds left, but Zamar took two points back off freebies with 5.1 seconds to go. The Accelerators failed to score in the final play.

Cruz, Zamar, and Rodrigue Ebondo each had 15 points for Cafe France, which is now the solo leader at 7-1.

Pogoy finished with 26 points on five triples, but his squad fell to a tie with Racal for second place.

Box Scores:

Cafe France 96-Cruz 15, Ebondo 15, Zamar 15, Abundo 13, Jeruta 12, Opiso 6, Parala 6, Custodio 5, Casino 4, Manlangit 3, Arim 2

Phoenix 93-Pogoy 26, Daquioag 16, Tolomia 16, Escoto 11, Inigo 10, Jamito 6, Mendoza 5, Colina 2, Batino 1, Andrada 0, Tamsi 0

Quarterscores: 19-21, 42-35, 59-57, 79-79, 96-93

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