Games Tuesday at the Marikina Sports Complex
3 p.m. - Cafe France vs Racal
5 p.m. - Tanduay vs Cignal-San Beda
MANILA, Philippines – Four teams will try to take a 1-0 lead in a best-of-3 series, but only two will be successful when the semifinals of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup opens on Tuesday at the Marikina Sports Complex.
Six-time D-League champion coach Boyet Fernandez knows a Game 1 win will be a huge boost for his Cignal-San Beda squad, especially as they are up 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 are staking their eight-game winning streak in the match-up, as well as Fernandez's own personal winning streak in the D-League semifinals. The coach has not lost a Final 4 game in the D-League dating back to his days with NLEX.
However, Fernandez argues that at this stage, streaks should be thrown out of the window as the team is now focused on its 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," said Fernandez, who will bank 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 San Beda core of Cignal.
"Underdog kami dyan, but we know we have everything to gain and nothing to lose," said Chongson.
"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," he added.
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 is a big advantage if we win Game 1. We will just be ready and give it our best shot," said coach Jerry Codiñera.
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 Jose Rizal University last Thursday.
"Hirap talaga kami sa zone [We have trouble against the zone defense]," 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.
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