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Blackwater, Cebuana eye PBA D-League semifinals

Defending champion Blackwater Sports and Cebuana Lhuillier may have the twice-to-beat advantages but both teams do not want to use it as they intend to finish off their rivals right away at the start of the quarterfinal round of the PBA D-League Foundation Cup which unfolds today at the Meralco gym in Pasig City.

The third-seed Elite will take on sixth-ranked CaféFrance in the first game at 2 p.m. while the 4 p.m. tussle features the No. 4 Gems against No. 5 Big Chill.

Both teams carry a psychological edge over their playoff rivals, having beaten them during the elimination round.

Blackwater edged past CaféFrance, 69-67, last May 8, while Cebuana carved out a 65-60 win over Big Chill on April 10.

Of the four teams in the quarters, the Elite have the momentum after winning six of its last seven games following a 0-2 start.

Despite losing to Jumbo Plastic in the race for the second outright semis berth, Blackwater coach Leo Isaac remains confident of his team’s chances in the playoffs.

“Masaya ako, we’re getting there, we’re feeling how it is to be a winning team so we expect more improvement into the coming days and hopefully we can make it to the finals again,” Isaac said.

“I think physically and mentally, 75 percent of my players are already there,” he added.

But Isaac and company know that they can’t take for granted the Bakers, who joined three other teams in a tie for sixth at 3-6 but barged into the playoffs with a superior quotient.

The Elite’s frontline led by Reil Cervantes, Gilbert Bulawan and Pari Llagas are expected to face a rugged up against their Baker counterparts in Rod Ebondo and Jam Cortes.

In the other pairing, Cebuana Lhuillier is seeking its first semifinal appearance since a runner-up finish to NLEX in the inaugural Foundation Cup three years ago.

But the Gems, who went 5-4 in the eliminations, enter the quarters with a three-game losing skid and the possible absence of James Martinez, who injured his left knee during the team’s 85-78 loss to Blackwater last Monday.

Big Chill went 4-5 in the elims but is determined to overhaul Cebuana’s quarterfinal bonus.