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CEU eyes D-L semis vs Batangas

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(Ynares Sports Arena)
3 p.m. – Batangas vs CEU
5 p.m. – Tanduay vs Marinerong Pilipino
– twice-to-beat, quarterfinal round

With their backs against the wall, Marinerong Pilipino and Batangas intend to salvage a lifeline today when they take on higher-ranked foes in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup quarterfinals at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City.

Riding high on a five-game winning streak, the sixth-seeded Skippers aim to continue their winning ways in their 5 p.m. showdown with Tanduay Rhum Masters, seeded No. 2 and armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the opening phase of the playoffs.

After an early struggle where they only won one of their first five matches, Marinerong Pilipino suddenly went on a tear and seemed to be peaking at the right time, with the Skippers even winning their last two assignments – Gamboa Mix and AMA Online – with an average winning margin of 61.5 points.

Veteran coach Koy Banal, however, reminded the Skippers that it won’t be any smooth sailing since they will have their hands full against the Rhum Masters who defeated them 74-76 in their initial meeting last June 19.

“I always remind the players na ibang klase ang playoffs. It’s a good thing that we have veterans who have been there before,” he said, confident that former pros Mark Isip and Joseph Marata will provide stability to a youthful crew boosted by the acquisition of high-scoring Robbie Herndon.

Also eager to extend their title campaign are the fifth-seeded Batangueños, who will try to neutralize the twice-to-beat edge being enjoyed by No. 4 Centro Escolar University in their 3 p.m. encounter.

Batangas coach Eric Gonzales is hoping his mainstays, led by Cedric De Joya and Cedrick Ablaza, can sing beautiful music together with new acquisitions Robby Celiz, Joseph Gabayni and former pro Leo Avenido.

“Mahirap ito para sa amin, pero maganda ang expectations sa amin ng mga bosses at siyempre, ilalaban natin yan,” he said.

Out to foil the Batangueños are the battle-tested Scorpions, bannered by Congolese center Rod Ebondo, JK Casiño and Orlan Wamar, who also defeated them 72-70 in their previous clash last June 15.

“Sa ngayon, naka-focus kami sa preparations namin. We can’t worry about other things but ‘yung preparation talaga against sa Batangas,” stressed CEU coach Yong Garcia.

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