MANILA, Philippines – Cignal-San Beda and Racal face off for one last time on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig, with the winner emerging as champions of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup.
The best-of-three championship series between the two squads is tied at 1-1, and the winner of Game 3 will walk away with its first-ever D-League title.
For six-time PBA D-League champion coach and Cignal-San Beda mentor Boyet Fernandez, winning a do-or-die Game 3 will depend not on coaching, but on the players' desire to win.
Eyebrows were raised when Racal coach Jerry Codiñera opted to start seldom-used big man Joseph Gabayni for Game 2 of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.
That reaction was unsurprising. After all, the former Lyceum slotman has been on a downturn and has only averaged 1.9 points on a paltry 35-percent shooting on top of 2.2 rebounds in the 6.3 minutes he played for the Tile Masters this conference.
But there seems to be a method to Codiñera’s madness, as Gabayni trotted out his best game to date, finishing with a season-best nine points, 10 rebounds, an assist, and a block in his 24 minutes on the floor in Racal’s 100-90 victory.
Robert Bolick took responsibility for Cignal’s 100-90 Game 2 defeat to Racal on Monday in the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.
“I’ll take the blame because we didn’t follow our game plan,” he said. “It was my fault, not my team, because I wasn’t playing defense. I’m a defender but guys like Rey (Nambatac) and (Kent) Salado easily scored on us.”
A frustrated Bolick was hard on himself as he felt ashamed for letting down the Hawkeyes especially on the defensive end.
Armed with the lessons from Game 1, Cignal-San Beda guard Robert Bolick thinks his team has a shot at completing a series sweep of the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup Finals.
“We can’t relax like what we did in Game 1,” said Bolick. “We have to fight until the end and continue on pushing because this is the championship. Who doesn’t want to win this, right?”
Bolick and the Hawkeyes take on the Racal Tile Masters in Game 2 of the best-of-three series on Monday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan. Tip-off is at 4 p.m., following the conference MVP awarding.
With no team enjoying a clear advantage, Cignal-San Beda and Racal begin their best-of-three championship series for the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup on Thursday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Hawkeyes and Tile Masters are hoping to make the most of their first appearance in the finals with squads that are no strangers to pressure-packed games.
“It’s too close to call,” said Racal coach Jerry Codiñera. “They’re a strong team with a lot of experienced players, the same with my lineup.”
Sparingly used for the length of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup, Ben Adamos finally got his break in Game 2 of Cignal-San Beda’s semifinals matchup against Tanduay on Thursday.
Coach Boyet Fernandez unearthed the hardworking big man to aid the Hawkeyes’ frontline, which got thoroughly outplayed in Game 1 as the Rhum Masters eviscerated the boards, 47-36, two days back.
And to the mentor’s delight, Adamos did provide the help he was badly looking for as Cignal outlasted Tanduay. 89-86, to equalize the series on Thursday and force a do-or-die Game 3 on Tuesday.
With the season on the line, Aaron Jeruta finally got over the hump and came up big for Cafe France.
The veteran guard came to the Bakers’ rescue, willing them in the fourth quarter as they rose back from the dead and came away with the 86-75 heist over Racal to force a winner-take-all affair in their 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup semifinals on Thursday.
“Aaron Jeruta stepped up. He’s the only veteran in the team and he was the missing link. This was his breakthrough game,” said coach Egay Macaraya of his 5-foot-8 playmaker.