Given the outcome of the first and only encounter between EcoOil La Salle and Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda in the Philippine Basketball Association D-League Aspirants’ Cup, coaches of both teams see a down-the-wire finish in their coming best-of-three title series.
La Salle’s Gian Nazario and Ralph Penuela of San Beda agree there’s no quarter asked, no quarter given mentality for the Green Archers and the Red Lions in the finals, which kicks off on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
EcoOil La Salle and Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda finished the elimination with similar 5-1 cards, but the Red Lions ended up as the top seed owing to the winner-over-the other rule.
The Archers swept University of Perpetual Help Altas in the semis, 2-0, while the Red Lions went through the wringer and beat Wangs Basketball@27-Letran in the deciding Game 3 to arrange their title duel.
“It’s going to be a close game. That’s what we want to see, right? For sure, La Salle will prepare so we also have to be ready,” Penuela said.
“Best of three. It’s going to be up to Game 3,” Nazario said.
With that said, the two coaches set the tone of the finals on Tuesday when they appeared in the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the conference hall of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex along with La Salle stalwart Kevin Quiambao, San Beda starting point guard Jacob Cortez, and San Beda coaching staff Tatti Chio.
The Red Lions stunned the Green Archers in their only meeting in the tournament, 82-79, on a game-winning three-pointer by Peter Alfaro.
But Penuela downplayed the victory, noting La Salle wasn’t in full force back then, notably missing the services of brothers Mike and Ben Philips, who were with the Gilas Pilipinas team campaigning in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games.
“That’s why we’re coming in this finals with the mindset of an underdog because having Phillips in the roster of La Salle is such a big deal,” Penuela said in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, Milo, Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
“The energy that they provide, the leadership that they imbibe in the team are major factors.”
Nazario agreed that they were short-handed when Marinerong Pilipino pulled off a thriller at their expense, but that doesn’t mean the Red Lions can’t compete with them with a complete team.
“I’m not going to take away na we were shorthanded (when they beat us). But at the same time, we have to give credit to San Beda,” the long-time La Salle coach said.
“The respect I have for coach Yuri (Escueta) and what he was able to put in the culture of San Beda speaks a lot.”