Finals or bust for D-League Final 4 bets
MANILA, Philippines - The race to the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup finals boils down to a pair of sudden deaths today with top seed defending champion NLEX raring to get back at Jose Rizal University and No. 2 Blackwater Sports out to score a repeat over Cagayan Valley at The Arena in San Juan.
The Heavy Bombers and the Elite turned back their rivals last week with the former stunning the fancied Road Warriors, 108-94, and the latter stopping the Rising Suns, 86-79, to set up the two Game 3s.
But NLEX is expected to pour it all out in their 4 p.m. encounter with JRU in a bid to stay on course for a fourth straight championship in the fledgling league.
"The challenge now for NLEX is how can we bounce back?" said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. "JRU came out with a lot of energy (in Game 2) and we have to match that energy from the start. Definitely, we need to step up on defense if we intend to make the finals again."
With the win, JRU coach Vergel Meneses said the pressure is now on NLEX but stressed the Bombers will further try to overcome the odds for a crack at the crown on their very first try.
"I think the pressure is now on them (NLEX). We’ve got nothing to lose. Nobody had expected us to be in the playoffs but my players have surpassed expectations. We're one way away from making the finals," said Meneses.
John Villarias got away with 24 points while Philip Paniamogan and Dexter Maiquez had 20 points apiece to underscore JRU's awesome shooting in Game 2.
"I'm confident my players will be able to compete. They have matured in our short stint in the league. I guess our ability to play consistency will be the key in Game 3. We'll see what happens," Meneses said.
Blackwater and Cagayan Valley dispute the first final berth at 2 p.m.
With momentum back on their side, the Elite expressed confidence of their chance to advance to the best-of-three finals.
"The key for us is not to allow Cagayan to dictate the tempo. If we could that we’ll have a good chance," said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac.