MANILA, Philippines – The 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup returned for a double-header at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao, Monday, February 12.
First Game: AMA vs EAC
AMA Online Education started the day by stopping a 28-point comeback by the winless Batangas EAC Generals and escaping with their first win of the season, 96-93.
Thanks to their sweet-shooting guards Rob Manalang, Genmar Bragais and new additions like AMA standout James Martinez and FEU stretch forward Arvin Tolentino, AMA jumped out to an early 26-8 lead after the opening quarter and extended it to 52-26 at the half.
However, the Generals began to troop back into the game in short scoring spurts like a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to 20, 36-56. EAC kept attacking and rode the hot hands of Cedrick De Joya, Cedric Ablaza and Jerome Garcia. Early in the final frame, Garcia kept draining triples en route to EAC cutting the AMA lead back to single digits, 86-77.
The highlight of the game came with 10 seconds left in regulation, as Garcia was fouled from beyond the arc. He sank 2/3 free-throws, rebounded his miss, passed it back out to Jessie Bautista for the three. Now just clinging to a 2-point lead, 95-93, AMA clanked one of its two freebies off the intentional foul to keep the game open for the tie but the Generals were unable to take advantage as time expired.
Manalang was scorching from downtown for AMA, scoring 40 points on 8/15 from rainbow range, including 24 second-half points. Martinez, who still holds the PBA D-League single-game scoring record of 58 points, added 18 in his return, this time donning #58 on his jersey. For EAC, it was (floor) General De Joya who topscored the comeback effort with 21 points - 16 in the 2nd half. Cedric Ablaza added 17 (13 in the 2nd half) while Garcia chipped in 15 markers, 13 coming in the fourth quarter alone.
Second Game: Gamboa-St. Clare vs JRU
In the second game, the Gamboa-St. Clare Coffee Lovers made quick work of the JRU Heavy Bombers with a 17-point win, 93-76.
Both teams kept it close with a back-and-forth affair until the half, where Gamboa led by just one, 34-33. However, the Coffee Lovers kept it tighter in the second half with a fullcourt press on the Heavy Bombers that resulted in easy buckets for their star swingman Travis Jackson. After a close first half, the Coffee Lovers ended the third period with an 18-point lead, 72-54.
As a result, Gamboa just used the fourth for some extra shots at the highlight reel. Midway through the quarter, Mohammad Pare dropped a huge alley-oop jam one possession after Jackson faked out his defender with a nasty euro-step layup.
Jackson paced the run-and-gun Gamboa offense with 25 points. Christopher Bitoon added 18 points of his own while Pare chipped in a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double. On the other end, Paolo Pontejos and Mark Dela Virgen led the way with 16 and 14 points apiece.
AMA (96) – Manalang 40, Martinez 18, Bragais 17, Antonares 12, Tolentino 6, Lao 3, Garcia 0, Escalambre 0, Porter 0, Jordan 0
EAC (93) – De Joya 21, Ablaza 17, Garcia 15, Mendoza 11, Diego 10, Laude 6, Bautista 4, Dela Pena 3, Tampoc 2, Maguilano 2, Mendoza 2, Martin 0, Neri 0
Quarter Scores: 26-8, 52-26, 71-58, 96-93
Gamboa-St. Clare (93) – Jackson 25, Bitoon 18, Pare 17, Dionisio 9, Hallare 6, Ambuludto 6, Rebuglo 5, Rubio 4, Acuno 3, Catura 0, Jumaquio 0, Decano 0, Alcober 0, Fontanilla 0
JRU (76) – Pontejos 16, Dela Virgen 14, Mendoza10, Apinan 10, Esguerra 7, Tayongtong 7, Tobiano 6, Yu 4, Padua 2, Perez 0, Silvarez 0, Bordon 0
Quarter Scores: 16-17, 34-33, 72-54, 93-76
STANDINGS (as of Feb. 12, 2018)
Marinerong Pilipino 3-2
**Gamboa-St. Clare 2-1
Go For Gold-CSB 1-2
** - one win nullified by way of Mila’s Lechon’s withdrawal, effective Feb. 12, 2018