The teams were equally matched with Palm Cafe leading 43-41 at halftime but they would turn up the pace after the interval, driving into the lane while making the extra pass to score inside the paint.
Vincent Superio of Palm Cafe, who had a game-high of 27 points, caught fire midway through the stanza to fire on all cylinders. They extended their lead to as many as 19 points before Soon Lee-Easyway went on a late push to cut the deficit to 59-71 going into the final quarter.
Superio continued to fire at will, knocking down jumpers against the national cagers for 16 second half points. Soon Lee-Easyway were clearly out of gas and couldn't keep up on defence as Palm Cafe were cruising at 91-62 midway through the period to notch their fifth straight win of the competition.
"It was just a lucky night for me. I gained a lot of confidence and just continued to shoot," said Superio, in an interview with The Brunei Times, after the win.
"The team also played well with good communication and the passing was good. I'm just glad to step up to help the team win the match," added the 31-year-old Filipino.
Marjomar Aying added 24 points and Don Mordeno chipped in 15 in the victory.
On the other hand, four players hit double figures for Soon Lee-Easyway with Lim Liang Wei topscoring with 16 points. Soon Kian Leong, Po Yung Hui and Yap Chun Ping chipped in 12, 11 and 10 points respectively.
Soon Lee-Easyway started as usual, deploying their man-to-man defence while Palm Cafe opted for the 3-2 defensive strategy.
It was a difficult game for both sides, as their set plays were met with fouls on almost every possession.
Nonetheless, Palm Cafe, the tournament favourites, were going for isolation plays through Aying who scored 13 points in the opening period to help his team open up a 30-20 lead heading into the second quarter.
Lim would spark Soon Lee-Easyway for an 8-0 run in the second quarter to keep his team within 28-32 after three minutes in. Palm Cafe would regroup and dominate every aspect of the game despite turnovers that allowed their opponents to stay close. Yap would end the quarter on a prayer shot from halfcourt, banking off the glass, to keep it a one basket game at 41-43 at halftime.
"We improved on our defence and managed to get on the fastbreak that was key in the win. There was good teamwork as well and I'm very satisfied with the performance as we haven't been training," said Palm Cafe head coach Albert Cenabre.
On the other hand, Kevin Reece, the national basketball coach, is disappointed with his team's display.
"We just ran out of gas. I'm disappointed with the guards because they were turning the ball over too many times against a good team," said the coach.
The American highlighted that the team needed to be mentally prepared in facing such teams.
"The Brunei basketball community have got to stop being frightened of the Filipino teams. We are giving them too much respect on the court and until we are mentally prepared to overcome that, we'll continue to lose," said the 50-year-old American.
"We are 0-4 against quality Filipino teams. We have improved and gave them a fight but we'll need to get over the hump (mental preparation) to win," he added.
In the earlier game, Sharks pulled off an 86-79 victory over MK Kids Salon in Group A.
Geve Leones was the topscorer of the match with 26 points and Aries Castro poured in 22 points. For Mk Kids Salon, Noel Grafil and Wawie Ybanez contributed 16 points each to the losing cause.
The competition continues today with Soon Lee-Easyway going up against Estetika in Group B at 7pm. The second game pits Y@ppe IT Store against Sharks in Group A at 8.30pm.
The Brunei Times