Action in the 2016 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup further heats up as four teams square off in a pair of blockbuster semifinals matches on Tuesday at the Filoil-Flying V Center in San Juan City.
Caida, ranked No. 2, hopes to sustain its mastery of third-seeded Phoenix Petroleum-Far Easter U in the opener of their best-of-three affair at 2 p.m. while eliminations topnotcher CafeFrance intends to do the same against dangerous Tanduay at 4 o’clock.
The Tile Masters handled the Accelerators with ease 108-91 in their initial meeting last Feb. 15, spoiling the record-breaking 41-point performance made by Phoenix Petroleum’s ace wingman and Gilas Cadet Mac Belo in the process.
Although they are picked as favorites, Caida coach Caloy Garcia refused to be swayed, saying the Tile Masters have no reason to have their guards down.
“In the semis, we can’t afford to be relaxed and complacent on our defense,” stressed Garcia, who will lean on his solid crew led by Arellano U’s ace playmaker and Gilas Cadet Jiovani Jalalon, top pick Jason Perkins and gunner Philip Paniamogan.
Garcia’s Phoenix Petroleum counterpart, Eric Gonzales, knows they have a tough task at hand. But he is unfazed, saying: “Very smart ang coaching ng kabila, at the same time, beterano din yung players nila. Talent-for-talent, mas magaling ang team nila, but I hope we play with pride as UAAP champions and beat Caida. ‘Yun ang gusto naming mangyari.”
A fair share of the limelight should fall in the main match, with the Bakers eyeing to avenge their only loss to the eliminations, a 74-79 decision dealt by the Rhum Masters last Feb. 22.
“It will be a very good motivation for us to fight ng husto dahil sila lang nakatalo sa amin,” said CafeFrance coach Egay Macaraya, who will draw strength from the likes of Congolese center Rod Ebondo, top locals Carl Cruz, Mar Villahermosa and Mon Abundo, who powered them to the Foundation Cup title last year.
Tanduay intends to ride the momentum of its two-game conquest of No. 4 University of the Philippines-QRS/Jam Liner in the quarterfinals. But Rhum Masters coach Lawrence Chongson knows it’s easier said than done.
“You throw those stuff out of the window. CafeFrance, nakapag-champion na yan. They are backstopped by an import na matagal na sa liga at mas matagal pa sa ibang locals, so we’ll have our hands full,” said Chongson, who will lean on former pros Val Acuna, Rudy Lingganay, and JP Belencion. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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