UAAP RIVALS Cignal-Ateneo and Cha Dao-FEU clash at the start of the PBA D-League playoffs today at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Stakes will be high between the two familiar foes as the Blue Eagles, holding a twice-to-beat advantage after topping the Aspirants’ Group, go for a semifinals berth against the Tamaraws at 2 p.m.
Foundation Group top seed City of Valencia Bukidnon-SSC-R is also determined to advance to the semifinals as it takes on Che’Lu Bar and Grill in the other quarterfinals pairing at 4 p.m.
Cignal-Ateneo has been sensational in its maiden D-League stint, winning eight of nine contests.
For coach Tab Baldwin, there’s no better time for him to finally lay out his plans than in the playoffs.
“Now we’re starting to focus on team actions and team performance, but I don’t have that high expectations on how we’ll play. I just want them to do things right and so far, we’ve been pretty good,” he said.
However, the Eagles haven’t played for almost a month, with their last game back in April 29 — a 102-88 win over the Revellers.
The Golden Harvest, who also went 8-1, are undoubtedly the hottest team in the league, winning five straight games behind the explosive tandem of RK Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi.
Still, City of Valencia Bukidnon-SSC-R coach Egay Macaraya remains cautious notwithstanding its twice-to-beat advantage, especiallly Che’Lu picked up its game late in the eliminations.
“Masyadong beterano ang mga kalaban namin. Kaya dapat maging handa lang kami sa kanila,” said Macaraya.
The Revellers, meanwhile, just want to make the most of this new lease on life, clinching the fourth spot in the Aspirants Group after Ironcon-University of Santo Tomas was eliminated following a shock 74-81 defeat to also-ran FamilyMart-Enderun last Thursday.
On the other hand, the Tamaraws have found their groove, winning four straight games, including a 74-69 victory over Centro Escolar University to clinch the last spot in the Foundation Group also last Thursday.
That’s why coach Olsen Racela won’t really change much, hoping momentum would make a difference in the Tamaraws’ bid to force a sudden death.
“Different team pero same approach pa rin kami,” said Racela. “It will be a good test for us kung nasaan na kami in terms of our preparation (in the UAAP).”