La Salle, Marinerong Pilipino aim for semis win

ECOOIL-LA SALLE and Marinerong Pilipino go for the kill against separate foes in the Philippine Basketball Association D-League Aspirants’ Cup semifinals Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Green Archers try to knock off Adalem Construction-St. Clare at 10 a.m., while the Skippers will look to sweep Apex Fuel-San Sebastian in their 12 p.m. duel.

Confidence is really on a high for EcoOil-La Salle after taking the 89-74 Game One win on Friday, but coach Derick Pumaren isn’t ready to fall into the traps of complacency knowing that the job still isn’t over.

“It’s still anybody’s ball game and if we let our guards down, they’re still capable of beating us on Sunday, so we have to take care of things,” Pumaren said. “We’re here to learn and if we have to close out games, we have to work on that.”

Kevin Quiambao and CJ Austria came alive in that fourth-quarter breakaway and the activations of Schonny Winston, Mark Nonoy, and Evan Nelle only made the already formidable EcoOil-La Salle crew the overwhelming favorites in the best-of-three series.

Yet if there’s something Adalem-St. Clare can take pride on, it’s that it won’t be one to fold that easily.

“We won’t let go, we’ve gone this far, so we have to prepare real hard,” said St. Clare coach Jinino Manansala, who will rely on the troika of Johnsherick Estrada, Joshua Fontanilla, and John Rojas in the sudden death affair for the Saints.

Marinerong Pilipino, meanwhile, is finally showing its fangs after a handy 74-66 Game One win over the Golden Stags with Juan Gomez de Liano once again flirting with a triple-double.

For coach Yong Garcia though, the magnificent performance of his side should be attributed to the stringent preparations that they had as they were given a week to prepare for this tiff.
“Preparation, that’s very important. The confidence is always there but we have to follow our game plan to the later,” said Garcia as Marinerong Pilipino try to extend its mastery of Apex Fuel-San Sebastian this conference.

It’s an added motivation, too, that the Skippers are seeking a return trip to the Finals after finishing as bridesmaids to BRT Sumisip-St. Clare back in the 2019 Foundation Cup.

“We’re here and our focus is to achieve our goal,” said Garcia, who is trotting out a brand new crew with Gomez de Liano, Go, and Kemark Carino leading the way.

But the Golden Stags are no pushovers, and as unlikely of a top seed as they are, are just raring to force a winner-take-all Game Three.

“We will fight, that’s our vow,” said coach Egay Macaraya who is expecting bigger games from Romel Calahat, Ichie Altamirano and Ken Villapando.