Motivated to complete a season sweep, Phoenix is eyeing to snare the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup title in Game 2 of its best-of-3 Finals series against Tanduay on Tuesday at Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna.
But coach Eric Gonzales knows that doing that won’t be an easy feat, especially after the close Game 1 affair where the Accelerators needed heroics from Mac Belo to eke out the 84-76 victory.
“We have to play together. Ang pinakamahalaga sa amin is we sprint back on defense,” he said, knowing that the defense must hold up for the offensively gifted Phoenix.
Gonzales will have no qualms banking on go-to guys Belo, Mike Tolomia, Ed Daquioag, and Roger Pogoy, who all showed their worth to the lead up to the championship duel.
“Kahit naman struggling kung sino man sa kanila, we have to be patient because I know in the end, I have to trust them,” he said.
Rhum Masters coach Lawrence Chongson, though, believes that Game 1 is just a game that slipped out of Tanduay’s clutches.
“Konting polish na lang sa depensa,” he said. “In this game, we were leading for more than 23 minutes. Pero sa crunchtime, we missed some crucial free throws. Tingin ko naman, konting adjustments lang. Makukuha din namin yan.”
Putting a lot of belief in his wards, Chongson is optimistic that his crew, bannered by Gelo Alolino, Kevin Ferrer, and Val Acuna, are ready to bounce back strong when the do-or-die affair tips off at 4:30 p.m.
“Tiwala ako sa mga players ko na just like sa semifinals, sa mga knockout games kami nagigising,” he said. “Siguro naging kumpyansa, nag-relax ng konti. Pero pag do-or-die, yung mga larong walang bukas, doon kami umaahon.”
The conference’s Most Valuable Player will also be hailed before Game 2, with Phoenix’s Mike Tolomia, Cafe France’s Carl Bryan Cruz, and Racal’s Jonathan Grey emerging as favorites to win the plum.