From this point on, every game counts as the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup playoffs begin at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Banking on its twice-to-beat edge, Tanduay seeks to extend its winning streak to four and go on the fastlane to the semifinals as it takes on AMA Online Education, while third-seed CaféFrance also eye to do the same against dangerous Jose Rizal University on Thursday.
For Rhum Masters coach Lawrence Chongson, he doesn’t want his wards to feel complacent despite their advantage knowing that they only need a victory to vanquish the Titans.
“We still have to win. Even though we have the twice-to-beat, we still need to compete and find a way to win,” he said.
Mark Cruz, Jerwin Gaco, and Bong Quinto will once again banner Tanduay in the playoffs.
Chongson also reiterated to his wards the mentality he fostered at the tailend of the eliminations, saying, “Every game is a do-or-die for us. Whatever it takes, I’ll take it as long as we survive. Ganito naman tayo dito sa D-League eh. Sana maging last man standing kami.”
The twice-to-beat advantage isn’t the only leg-up Tanduay has over AMA, with the latter losing Juami Tiongson, who was swooped in by NLEX in the PBA.
Titans coach Mark Herrera admitted the huge hole left by Tiongson’s departure, noting that he’s losing his lead playmaker in the most important phase of the tournament.
“With Juami, he averages 20-plus points a game plus siya ang nagke-create para sa akin. So masakit talaga na mawawala syia, but we’re happy that he’s getting a shot back in the PBA,” he said.
Without Tiongson, that puts tons of pressure on Jeron Teng to further assert his will as he will lead AMA’s upset bid together with Jay-R Taganas, PJ Barua, and newly signed Von Tambeling.
“Very short yung preparation time namin but at the end of the day, we need to move on,” said Herrera.
Tip off is at 5 p.m., following the clash between the Bakers and the Heavy Bombers at 3 p.m.
Meanwhile, Cafe France coach Egay Macaraya is hopeful that his team has truly refocused following its back-to-back losses to end the eliminations.
“We hope we learned our lessons and do much better in our quarterfinal game against JRU,” he said, as his side enjoys a twice-to-beat advantage in this quarterfinal tiff.
Paul Desiderio, Michael Calisaan, and Rod Ebondo carry the Bakers as they try to silence the high-scoring JRU guards Tey Teodoro and Jhaps Bautista.
On the other hand, Heavy Bombers coach Vergel Meneses wants nothing but to see some fight from his crew and compete against the favored Cafe France.
“Lahat naman ng teams dito malakas eh, lalo na yung Cafe France,” he said. Ang sa akin lang, we’re ready, we’re here to gain experience, and we want to keep on fighting.”