CAGAYAN Valley tries to stay in the chase for the last semifinal bonus when the Rising Suns take on Fruitas in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup today at Jose Rizal University in Mandaluyong City.
Locked in a tight race for the No. 2 spot, the Rising Suns go for a crucial sixth victory in the 2 p.m. match against the Shakers, who remain in contention in the quarterfinals.
“I kept telling my boys, this is their chance to shine,” said coach Alvin Pua of his Rising Suns, who made a remarkable turnaround this conference after a winless debut last season.
“We have an opportunity to make the semifinals outright, so why not go for it.”
Only three-time champion NLEX has secured the No. 1 seed that comes with an outright semifinal berth, the incentive given to the top two teams at the end of the eliminations.
The Rising Suns remain in strong contention for the last bonus at 5-3. They trail idle Blackwater Sports (6-2) and Big Chill (5-4).
Jose Rizal University battles the eliminated Erase Xfoliant in the other game at 4 p.m.
The third- to sixth-ranked teams will square off in the quarterfinals, with the two higher seeds holding a twice-to-beat edge.
Both the Shakers and the Bombers have 4-4 records.
Fruitas coach Nash Racela said the Shakers expect a tough outing against the Rising Suns minus Nigerian center Ola Adeogun, who is sitting out for the second straight game due to a recurring foot injury.
“With a complete lineup, we are a good match up with Cagayan,” said Racela. “But with Ola still out, the other guys will have to step forward and plug the holes.”
The Shakers also have to do without forward Martin Antonio, who got slapped with a one-game ban and a P5,000 fine for his flagrant foul penalty 2 on JRU’s John Villarias in their big loss to the Bombers, 100-64, last week.
In the same game, Villarias exploded for a league all-time best of 36 points to lead the Bombers to their third straight victory.
The Erasers hope to play spoiler just days after tapping Caloy Garcia as their new coach.