The Cagayan Rising Suns and the Big Chill Superchargers are one win away from barging into the semifinals of the 2013 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup if they can take home wins against the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems and the Air 21-JRU Heavy Bombers respectively Tuesday at the FilOil Flying V Arena.
Cagayan, finishing at the third spot, goes into its quarterfinal matchup with Gems armed with a twice-to-beat advantage in the 2 p.m. opener. In their previous meeting, the Rising Suns, behind a 24-point performance from Chris Exciminiano tripped Cebuana, 86-82, at the JCSGO Gym last November 27.
Going into their quarterfinal clash, Cagayan coach Alvin Pua wants his boys to remain focused.
“We want to reach the next level [which is the semifinals]. In order to achieve that, we have to play defense for forty minutes against Cebuana. They were impressive in their last two games. If we could keep the game close and be consistent with our defensive efforts, I think we have a chance,” said Pua.
After debuting as the league’s cellar-dwelling team last conference, the Rising Suns quickly turned things around, acquiring talent from the collegiate ranks as well as some role players before their second conference.
Pua also beat the January 31 deadline for changing lineups by signing PBA free agent Julius Pasculado and former Blackwater center John Montemayor to replace Philip Dela Cruz and Raffy Gusi.
“We’re just happy to make the quarterfinals despite all the troubles we’ve encountered in the elimination round. Who knows, we might be lucky again [when we play the solid Cagayan team],” said Cebuana coach Beaujing Acot.
The Rising Suns only need one win to advance to the semifinals.
In the other game at 4 p.m., Big Chill coach Robert Sison looks to put an early end to Air 21-JRU’s campaign by clinching one win in order to book a semis seat.
“This game against JRU is going to be tough. We are all going all out to win and take out of our minds that we are in a twice-to-beat advantage situation,” said Sison, who wants his players not to entertain complacency at any point.
But, the Superchargers will play with a crippled lineup as their starting guard Terrence Romeo is out for at least six weeks due to a hairline fracture on his right hand, an injury he incurred in their 87-94 loss to Informatics last January 17.
“It will be tough to play without Terrence. So I expect every player to step up in his absence.”
JRU’s Vergel Meneses meanwhile is positive about the intensity and confidence of his players coming into the series despite facing a tall order in needing to beat Big Chill twice in order to advance to the semis.
“Masaya ako sa naging run ng team so far in our maiden stint in the D-League. Nagmature sila lalo in the past games and their confidence level is high. I know they can compete against any team in this league. All we need is consistency every game.”
In their elimination round meeting last October 25, Big Chill escaped the Heavy Bombers by a hairline, 77-76, through a buzzer-beating layup from Mark Canlas off an offensive rebound from a missed three-point heave by Romeo.
The winner in the Cagayan-Cebuana tiff will face the Blackwater Sports in the semifinals while NLEX, the first semifinalist await the winner of the Big Chill-JRU matchup.
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