MANILA, Philippines - The PBA D-League Foundation Cup kicks off its semifinal series today with powerhouse NLEX and defending champion Blackwater Sports hoping to get past their respective rivals for another title rematch.
The Road Warriors face off with the Cebuana Gems at 2 p.m. while the Elite battle the Jumbo Plastic Giants in the 4 p.m. main game of a pair of best-of-three matches at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
This marks the second meeting between NLEX and Cebuana Lhuillier in a playoff series with the Road Warriors sweeping the Gems to win the inaugural championship of this same tournament in 2011.
“Cebuana is a strong team with many talented players. They will be a tough opponent,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
NLEX also defeated Cebuana Lhuillier, 76-68, in the elims after the Gems wavered in the closing minutes of the contest.
The Road Warriors, who earned an outright semis berth with a sweep of the elims, have not played since their 70-58 blowout against Big Chill in the elims last May 8, raising concern over their form and cohesion.
“I’m a little worried the long break might have gotten us rusty. But no ifs or buts, we’ll be ready for Game 1. We believe our defense – individually and as a team – will be an important factor in the series,” Fernandez said.
Cebuana Lhuillier coach Boyzie Zamar readily admitted that they are the underdog in the series but promise to give the Road Warriors a good fight.
“NLEX is NLEX but we’ll play our hearts out,” said Zamar of their chances against NLEX.
The Blackwater Sports-Jumbo Plastic series promises to be a lot more interesting matchup.
“Sa tingin ko parehas lang. Kung sino yung may mas magandang focus tingin yun ang mananalo. And that’s what we want to have in this series,” said Blackwater mentor Leo Isaac.
To hopefully be able to match up against the Giants big men, the Elite acquired 6-5 center Raul Soyud, who was released by Derulo Accelero at the end of the elimination round.
“I think the matchup of big men will be a factor in this series. If our bigs could dominate I think we’ll have a chance,” said Jumbo Plastic assistant coach Joel Dualan.
Last conference, the Giants enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals only to be eliminated by the Elite.