(Marikina Sports Complex;
Game 1 of Best-of-3 Semifinals)
3 p.m. Cafe France vs Racal
5 p.m. Tanduay vs Cignal-San Beda
MANILA, Philippines – With four teams left in the championship race, getting a head start in their respective semifinal duels undoubtedly gives tons of advantage to the victors, especially in a short best-of-three series.
And going 1-0 will definitely be in the minds of the four remaining proponents as they begin the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup semifinals on Tuesday at Marikina Sports Complex.
Six-time D-League champion coach Boyet Fernandez acknowledges the huge boost the Game 1 win could give Cignal-San Beda, especially as it braces for a tough draw against a veteran Tanduay squad.
“It’s very important for us to win Game 1 and take control of the series. Facing Tanduay in the semis is a tough matchup for us. We just have to be ready and prepared for them,” he said.
The Hawkeyes aren’t just staking their eight-game winning streak in the matchup, as Fernandez has never lost a game in the Final Four dating back to his NLEX days. However, the soft-spoken mentor argues that at this stage, streaks are thrown out of the window as the team focuses on the bigger goal of inching closer to the title.
“We’d rather look at it at a game-to-game basis and not mind the streak,” Fernandez said, as he banks on Jason Perkins, Robert Bolick, and Javee Mocon to lead Cignal.
Tanduay coach Lawrence Chongson, meanwhile, welcomes the challenge as he tests his veteran crew against the Hawkeyes’ San Beda core.
“Underdog kami dyan, but we know we have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” the outspoken coach said. “Teams have to find their own niche. Luxury ng school-based teams yung chemistry nila so I have to find mine, and I think we found a way naman and we thought that going with the ex-pros is the way to go.”
Mark Cruz, Jerwin Gaco, and Bong Quinto banner the Rhum Masters squad when they meet at 5 p.m., following the 3 p.m. tip-off between long time rivals Cafe France and Racal.
Looking at the other series, second-seed Racal is also hoping to nab that 1-0 series lead as it seeks to inch closer on what could possibly the franchise’s first Finals appearance.
“It’s a big advantage if we win Game 1. We will just be ready and give it our best shot,” said coach Jerry Codinera.
Sidney Onwubere, Jackson Corpuz, and Kent Salado will lead the Tile Masters in the tilt.
The Bakers, meanwhile, are wary of the weaknesses that sprouted following their quarterfinal game against JRU last Thursday.
“Hirap talaga kami sa zone,” said coach Egay Macaraya. “We have to make our jump shots so we can also get the pressure off of (Rod) Ebondo in the paint. Kailangan namin maging consistent.”
Luckily, Cafe France welcomed back sniper Joseph Sedurifa to its fray as he is set to pair up with Paul Desiderio and Rod Ebondo in dreams of carrying the crew back to the championship stage.dl