The Hapee Fresh Fighters and the Cagayan Rising Suns are one win away from advancing to the Final Four of the PBA D-League Foundation Cup but getting there is definitely easier said than done.
Hapee and Cagayan have issues of their own that threatens to imperil their bid to join semifinalists-in-waiting Cebuana Lhuillier and Café France.
Standing in their way are Jumbo Plastic at 1 p.m. and AMA University at 3 p.m. respectively – two teams that went through a rollercoaster ride in the eliminations but are certainly no pushovers.
An incident involving Cagayan coach Alvin Pua late in the eliminations left the Rising Suns without a coach for the remainder of their campaign. The temperamental coach was meted a lifetime ban by PBA Commissioner Chito Salud for assaulting a game official last May 14.
His absence though didn’t seem to affect the confidence of the Rising Suns, who dealt the Gems their second straight loss, 102-95, Monday last week.
“Maybe what happened is a lesson to coach. But with or without coach we’ll continue to stay competitive and try to move on,” said Cagayan shooting guard Abel Galliguez.
The Rising Suns beat the Titans, 75-70, in the eliminations but AMA’s bigs — Jay-R Taganas and Dexter Maiquez — have been doing well lately and their experience pose a matchup problem for Cagayan.
The return of Joseph Terso in the lineup also provides the Titans with a solid backcourt that also include James Martinez, Jeramy King aand Jaycee Asuncion.
AMA finished the eliminations in a tie with Tanduay Light and Kera Mix but clinched the last quarterfinal berth on the strength of its superior quotient.
The playoffs also bring some concerns to Hapee coach Ronnie Magsanoc. The Fresh Fighters are heading to Monday’s game without Bobby Ray Parks Jr., who went to the US for another shot at making it to the NBA.
And that’s not the end of it for the Fresh Fighters. Go-to-guys Scottie Thompson, Troy Rosario and Baser Amer will be leaving on June 6 to play for the national team in the Singapore Southeast Asian Games leaving them with a depleted roster in the semis.