CaféFrance’s four-year search for a championship came to a thrilling conclusion yesterday as the Bakers pulled off a dramatic 56-55 win over the Hapee Toothpaste Fresh Fighters and captured the PBA D-League Foundation Cup title yesterday before a huge crowd at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Rob Ebondo emerged as the biggest star of the sudden death showdown when he scored the winning basket with 1.8 seconds left, helping the Bakers reach the summit for the first time since joining the D-League as one of its original members in 2011.
Ebondo’s basket came after the Fresh Fighters took a 55-54 lead on Nico Elorde’s triple with less than a minute remaining followed by Troy Rosario’s block on the ensuing play.
But CaféFrance refused to quit and forced a 24-second shot clock violation on Hapee with six seconds to play, setting the stage Ebondo’s heroics – thanks greatly to Coach Egay Macaraya’s perfectly-designed play.
And Ebondo, who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks, didn’t disappoint.
The Centro Escolar University standout received the inbound pass on the wing before blowing past a Hapee defender to score a running basket that sent the CaféFrance supporters in euphoria.
“He asked me the ball and I gave it to him and he made the shot. He wanted the ball and he wanted to win,” said Macaraya.
Hapee’s Chris Newsome missed a Hail Mary at the buzzer, triggering the start of CaféFrance’s celebration.
The title win made CaféFrance the fourth team to clinch a D-League crown after NLEX, Blackwater and Hapee, the winner of the Aspirants Cup last February.
The Bakers struggled in the early years of the league before becoming a title contender this conference behind Ebondo and other CEU products like Samboy de Leon, Mon Abundo and Joseph Sedurifa.
Former pro Eloy Poligrates and Fil-Am guard Maverick Ahanmisi also provided the firepower for CaféFrance on its way to finishing second at the end of the elimination round.
CAFÉFRANCE 56 – Ebondo 18, De Leon 7, Ahanmisi 7, Sedurifa 7, Poligrates 6, Cortes 4, Galanza 3, Abundo 2, Andrada 2, Jeruta 0, Miranda 0, Batino 0.
HAPEE 55 – Elorde 12, Villahermosa 11, Newsome 8, Rosario 8, Mendoza 7, Romero 5, Gamboa 4, Thompson 0.
Quarters: 15-14; 33-27; 43-41; 56-55.