D-League La Salle’s Gian Nazario, Kevin Quiambao, San Beda’s Jacob Cortez and Ralph Penuela are shown photo

Tight battle seen in D-League

June 20, 2023 People's Tonight 396 views

GIVEN the outcome of the first and only encounter between EcoOil La Salle and Marinerong Pilipino-San Beda in the PBA 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.

“(Magiging) dikit ang laban. Yun naman yung gustong makita natin, di ba. For sure, ang La Salle magpe-prepare din naman. So kami rin,“ Penuela said.

“Best of three. Hanggang Game Three,” added Nazario.

With that said, the two coaches set the tone of the finals on Tuesday when they appeared in the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) 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 in Cambodia.

“Kaya we’re coming in this finals with the mindset of an underdog kasi sobrang laking bagay nung Philips sa roster ng La Salle. Yung energy na binibigay nila, yung leadership na nai-imbibe nila sa team,” said the former San Beda player in the session presented by San Miguel Corporation, Philippine Sports Commission, MILO, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Nazario agreed EcoOil was shorthanded when Marinerong Pilipino pulled off a thriller at its 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,” said La Salle’s long-time coach.

“The respect I have for coach Yuri (Escueta) and what he was able to put in sa kultura ng San Beda at Marinerong Pilipino speaks a lot.”

Quiambao, the former Gilas stalwart, and Cortez, son of former PBA player and top pick Mike Cortez, are the two top candidates for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, but expressed winning the championship is both their priority.

“I think everyone wants to be a champion. I think that’s the main goal. The MVP is just like a bonus,” said Cortez.

Added Quiambao, “For me grateful akong makasama sa (MVP) list. (Pero) gusto ko ring mag-champion. Main goal naman is to win the championship.”

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.