CIGNAL is on an eight-game winning streak, fast proving it has what it takes, but coach Boyet Fernandez is still not convinced that they should be favored over Tanduay in their semis battle in the PBA D-League Aspirant’s Cup at the Marikina Sports Complex.
The Hawkeyes, who topped the eliminations with an 8-1 card, collide with the fourth-ranked Rhum Masters today in Game 1 of their best-of-3 semis battle.
Clashing in the other semis pairing are Racal and CaféFrance.
Cignal HD drubbed Tanduay 85-71 in their eliminations encounter last Feb. 23 but the Rhum Masters’ retooled line-up, according to Fernandez, can’t be ignored.
“We are worried about Tanduay. We beat them in the eliminations but we were down by 18 points early in the first half,” Fernandez told Malaya-Business Insight yesterday.
“Tanduay retooled its line-up and it will be a different team that we are facing,” he added, referring to Tanduay’s new additions led by former pros Jerwin Gaco, Lester Alvarez, and Denice Villamor, and Andretti Stevens.
The Hawkeyes go into the 3 o’clock duel on a high, having scored a 96-86 victory over the Tile Masters last March 13. Cignal HD will bank anew on Robert Bolick, Jason Perkins, Javee Mocon, Pamboy Raymundo, and Davon Potts.
The Rhum Masters finished the eliminations with a 6-3 record and will go into today’s match fresh from an 80-76 decision over AMA Online Education in their quarterfinals battle last March 16.
Tanduay coach Lawrence Chongson gamely admitted his wards are the slight underdogs, saying Fernandez, a six-time champion coach in the D-League play, makes the Hawkeyes a “well-coached” team.
“Being the No. 4 seed and of course facing the No. 1 seed, obviously we should be the slight underdogs in this series,” Chongson said. “We got our work cut for us in going up against a well-coached team like Cignal.”
Mark Cruz, Bong Quinto, Gaco, Paul Sanga, and Jaymo Eguilos will lead the Rhum Masters’ charge.
“The key for us will be finding an antidote to counter the chemistry and familiarity factor going for them, owing to the fact that they’re being backstopped by the core of the NCAA champion team,” Chongson said, referring to the San Beda Red Lions.
Racal and the Bakers clash at 5 p.m., with both teams bent on drawing first blood.
“It’s a big advantage if we win Game 1. We will just be ready and give it our best shot,” Tile Masters coach Jerry Codinera said.
“I’m excited for the players and the company,” he added as Racal seeks to make it to the finals after losing twice in the semis of the Aspirant’s and Foundation Cup last year.
The Tile Masters, who ended second after the eliminations with a 7-2 slate, scored a thrilling 82-78 win over CaféFrance in their eliminations game last March 9 and are out to make up for their 86-96 defeat at the hands of Cignal HD last March 19.
CaféFrance secured the third slot with a 6-3 card after the eliminations s and showed the door to Jose Rizal U via an 86-75 win last March 16. (Michael Jugado)