MANILA, Philpines—Newcomer Fruitas escaped seasoned Cebuana Lhuiller by a hairline, 91-90, Thursday in the 2012 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Trinity University of Asia Gym.
The Shakers, coming in the league as contenders, teetered on the brink of defeat when lapses on defense allowed the Gems to connect consecutively from downtown in the fourth period.
Crucial missed free throws by Mike Silungan, a foul by Anjo Caram in the dying seconds and lapse on rebounding toward the end nearly doomed Fruitas.
But the Shakers got a huge break when June Dizon’s game-winner at the buzzer was ruled not counted, awarding them their first victory of the season.
Up by a point, the Shakers needed final defensive stop to take home the win but Caram fouled Rexander Leynes, who then missed two freethrows.
Dizon was able to soar above everyone for the bounce, but his final shot just didn’t make the time.
Head coach Nash Racela, though, sees all the mistakes as a learning experience for a team who only got to practice with a complete line-up for five days.
“I really don’t know what to expect from these guys when we came in. With just five practices it’s hard to expect anything. I’m glad we won. But it’s still a learning process for us,” Racela said.
Racela knows, though, what Ola Adeogun, who finished with 30 points, 13 rebounds and, a block for Fruitas.
“That’s why he’s there,” Racela said of the Nigerian center, who’s playing alongside five players from the Red Lions.
Adeogun threw his weight in the paint and scored 14 points in just the third quarter alone where they posted a 59-48 lead.
Carlo Lastimosa chipped in 19 points, four rebounds, and five assists for the Shakers, who are supposed to be up 2-0 but had their first game forfeited.
The Gems, who beefed up for this conference, absorbed their first setback but really showed grit by coming back twice from a double digit deficit.
Dizon once again shined with 17 points, Paul Zamar added 14 points, and Jopher Custodio had 13 points for Cebuana Lhuillier.
The veterans played catch up all game, and finally came alive when Custodio hit back to back treys to give them an 84-87 lead with 3:19 to go.