Battered, tired and facing a very game opponent, Hapee Toothpaste was rewarded for its perseverance and survived Jumbo Plastic, 75-64, to claim the last semifinal seat yesterday in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The San Beda tandem of Baser Amer and Art dela Cruz led Hapee’s big third quarter run before Earl Thompson battled through a torn hamstring with his all-around effort on both ends to help the Fresh Fighters turn back the resilient Linoleum Giants in their quarterfinal duel.
Hapee advanced to take on top seed Cebuana Lhuillier in a best-of-three semifinal series which starts on Monday.
No one was happier more than Hapee Coach Ronnie Magsanoc, whose team had to endure a roller coaster campaign that began with a loss to Jumbo Plastic.
“To make it to the playoffs, thankful na ako,” said Magsanoc. “But to make it to the semis with what we’ve faced, what a blessing.”
The Fresh Fighters had to do it the hard way after their twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters disappeared following the Linoleum Giants’ stunning 87-83 victory in the opener.
But Amer, dela Cruz and Thompson made sure that Jumbo won’t complete a gigantic upset when they turn on the heat after a 35-30 halftime lead.
HAPEE 75 – Dela Cruz 18, Amer 17, Rosario 13, Newsome 12, Adeogun 6, Thompson 4, Elorde 3, Long 2, Sorela 0, Koga 0
JUMBO PLASTIC 64 – Sanga 13, Arellano 0, Jalalon 10, Khobuntin 6, Mandani 6, Villamor 5, Eguilos 4, Mirza 4, Paniamogan 2, Perez 2, Avillanoza 2, Tiongson 0
Quarters: 22-15; 35-30; 52-44; 75-64.