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Gamboa downs Ebondo-less CEU; Adamson drubs Letran in D-League playoff previews

MANILA, Philippines – The PBA D-League fans in the Ynares Sports Arena got an early sneak peek of possible playoff showdowns in the 2018 Aspirants Cup with a top-tier double-header on Thursday, March 15.

Hot on the heels of their thrilling overtime win against Zark’s-LPU, the Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers made quick work of the top-ranked Centro Escolar University (CEU) Scorpions, 100-83.

To coincide with the early loss of star Scorpion Rod Ebondo due to a lower back injury, Gamboa’s shooters also caught fire in the first quarter. Junjie Hallare, Chris Bitoon and captain Aris Dionisio combined for 23 of the team’s first 27 points as CEU scrambled to adjust.

With Ebondo gone, Gamboa’s big man Mohammad Pare went to work, forming a one-two punch with star swingman Travis Jackson in the second as the Coffee Lovers coasted to a 19-point lead at halftime, 52-31. All the Scorpions could do was try to trim down the lead, which they successfully did. Thanks to Patrick Aquino’s 12 fourth quarter points and a 13-0 run, CEU trimmed the deficit down to 17 at the end after trailing by nearly 30 points to the Coffee Lovers, 64-93.

Six players scored in double figures for Gamboa, with Bitoon’s 19 points leading the way. Pare (14 points, 17 rebounds) and Dionisio (15 points, 12 rebounds) feasted on the boards en route to stellar double-double performances. Aquino and Keanu Caballero led CEU with 19 and 12, respectively, but it was far from enough to complete a late comeback.

Second Game: Akari-Adamson vs Wangs-Letran

Not to be outdone, the second-seeded Akari-Adamson Falcons had a blowout of their own, drubbing the powerhouse Wangs-Letran Couriers by 19, 90-71.

The game was a slow, defensive grind for much of the first half, with Letran squeezing out an 8-point, 23-15 lead early in the second quarter. However, Sean Maganti and Jerrick Ahanmisi began to wax hot from the floor and responded with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 25. At the half, Adamson held a one-point lead, 36-35.

But the mastery of multi-titled collegiate coach Franz Pumaren was on full display by the second half. Subbing players in and out like a factory line, Pumaren and captain Ahanmisi steered the ship with defensive stop after defensive stop. A Maganti triple near the end of the third punctuated a soaring 18-2 run for the Falcons, who suddenly led 61-43. Adamson then led by as many as 23 points in the 4th, shutting down the game for good.

Maganti was hot all game long, scoring 14 of his 24 points in the second half to go along with 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Ahanmisi and Papi Sarr each chipped in 15 points while Sarr added 12 boards for the double-double. On the other end, Rey Publico led Letran with 20 points, but only Jeo Ambohot (12 points) and Bong Quinto (10 points) would end up also scoring in double figures in the losing effort.

After the CEU loss, Akari-Adamson is now tied with the Scorpions for first place with identical 7-2 records.

The Scores

First Game:

Gamboa-St. Clare (100) – Bitoon 19, Jackson 18, Rebugio 16, Dionisio 15, Pare 14, Hallare 11, Alcober 3, Rubio 2, Fontanilla 2.

CEU (83) – Aquino 16, Caballero 12, Fuentes 10, Guinitaran 8, Veron 7, Ebondo 6, Wamar 4, Opiso 4, Arim 4, Manlangit 2, Cruz 2, Saber 0.

Quarter Scores: 27-15, 51-32, 78-52, 100-83.

Second Game:

Akari-Adamson (90) – Maganti 24, Ahanmisi 15, Sarr 15, Camacho 14, Catapusan 6, Espeleta 5, Macion 4, Mojica 3, Lastimosa 2, Pingoy 2, Zaldivar 0.

Wangs-Letran (71) – Publico 20, Ambohot 12, Quinto 10, Calvo 7, Muyang 6, Balanza 6, Yu 6, Balagasay 2, Mandreza 2, Trinidad 0, Fajarito 0, Taladua 0, Batiller 0.

Quarter Scores: 15-14, 36-35, 66-49, 90-71.

STANDINGS (as of March 15, 2018)

Akari-AdU 7-2

CEU 7-2

Marinerong Pilipino 6-2

Gamboa-St. Clare 5-2

Wangs-Letran 5-3

Che’Lu-SSC 5-4

Go For Gold-CSB 5-5

Zark’s-LPU 4-4

Perpetual 2-6

AMA 1-5

JRU 1-6

EAC 1-7

– Rappler.com