EcoOil La Salle needs just two wins to retain the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup championship trophy.
But Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda won’t give up just like that when they face off in Thursday’s Game 1 of the best-of-three title series.
It will be a rematch for the two teams which battled for the top prize last year with La Salle, then coached by Derick Pumaren, claiming the title after three hard-fought encounters.
In Tuesday’s PSA Forum, La Salle’s Gian Nazario and San Beda’s Ralph Penuela agree to the “no quarter asked, no quarter given” mentality when the two squads take the floor at 3 p.m. at the Ynares Sport Arena in Pasig City.
The Red Lions stunned the Green Archers in their only meeting in the eliminations, 82-79, on a game-winning three-pointer by Peter Alfaro.
But Penuela quickly noted that La Salle wasn’t in full force at the time, notably missing the services of brothers Mike and Ben Philips, who were with the Gilas Pilipinas team campaigning in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia.
“That’s why coming in the finals we have the mindset of an underdog because it’s a big difference having Philips in La Salle roster. The energy they bring and the leadership they provide,” Penuela said.
Nazario agreed but maintained that the Red Lions can still compete with them with a complete team.
“I’m not going to take away that we were shorthanded (when they beat us). But at the same time, we have to give credit to San Beda,” Nazario said.
“The respect I have for coach Yuri (Escueta) and what he was able to put in the culture of San Beda and Marinerong Pilipino speaks a lot.”