(Pasig Sports Center)
12 noon -- Zark’s vs. Marinerong Pilipino
2 p.m. -- Che’Lu vs. Akari
AKARI-Adamson seeks to continue what has been an overachieving campaign in the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup as it tangles Che’Lu Bar and Grill-San Sebastian in the semifinals opener today at the Pasig Sports Center.
For coach Franz Pumaren, his supposed to be rebuilding Falcons finishing at the top of the standings after the eliminations was quite a surprise for him.
“At the start of the season, if you told me that we’ll be up as the number one team, I’ll be thinking you’re just pulling my leg,” said Pumaren on the eve of the 2 p.m. clash.
The stellar play of Jerrick Ahanmisi, Sean Manganti, and Jonathan Espeleta, however, have allowed Akari-Adamson to rack up a 9-2 card, toppling some of the league’s fancied teams.
Pre-season favorite Marinerong Pilipino, which also finished at 9-2 in the elims, take on Zark’s Burgers-Lyceum of the Philippines University, in the other semis duel at 12 noon.
Now that they’re in the Final Four, Pumaren is going for broke as the Falcons go all-in for the championship.
“It was a surprise on our part because we joined the league with the sole purpose of gaining experience. But now that we’re here, we’ll still continue what were doing. Right now, it’s more of the little things,” said Pumaren.
On the other hand, the Revellers hope that their retooled roster will do wonders in the best-of-three series.
“Siguro we have to work doubly hard kasi sobrang disciplined na team yan eh. Walang time na makapag-relax ka eh. We really have to prepare for them,” said Che’Lu mentor Steve Tiu.
Losing Michael Calisaan midway through the season, Tiu is banking on his new acquisitions like Jeff Viernes and Jay-R Taganas to pair up with holdovers Samboy de Leon and upstarts Allyn Bulanadi and RK Ilagan to get the job done for the Revellers.
Akari-Adamson prevailed over Che’Lu, 84-75 in their eliminations meeting last Feb. 13.
Still riding the wave of their eight-game winning streak, the Skippers’ confidence are at a sky-high going into their showdown with the Jawbreakers.
But coach Koy Banal knows that Marinerong Pilipino’s placing as the two seed is already irrelevant as they go back to zero in the short series.
“Ayaw namin na mangyari sa amin yung nangyari sa Flying V na they did not make it to the Finals,” said Banal, referring to the Thunder which failed to make it past the Final Four after sweeping the elimination round in the 2017 Foundation Cup.
“We just want to be ready. We have experience and we’ll see who’s really going to push themselves to the limit,” he added.
Banal has every reason to be wary, especially after Zark’s, bucking a twice-to-win disadvantage, pulled off a stunning reversal over No. 3 CEU in the quarterfinals.
More importantly, this is a different Jawbreakers team from the one Skippers beat, 94-92 back in opening day almost three months ago.
“We have to be ready to play for 58 minutes, meaning playing the regulation and two overtimes,” said Banal. “The key here is sustain. You cannot relax against them.”