After surviving a grueling semifinal series, NLEX takes on another gutsy opponent at the start of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup championship today.
So the Road Warriors know they have to toughen up yet again versus a confident Cagayan Valley side in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals at 3 p.m. today at the Blue Eagle Gym in Ateneo.
“We’re up against an energetic team, a no-holds barred team that plays hard every game,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “We have to match their energy.”
The Rising Suns remarkably turned their campaign around after a winless stint just last conference. And it’s this unexpected run that fuels the Rising Suns’ bid to foil the Road Warriors’ quest for a fourth straight title.
Leading the Rising Suns’ pumped-up performances is Eliud Poligrates—the Cebuano guard who was a virtual unknown before the conference—who averaged 18.6 points, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals in the Final Four.
“When we built this team, we really got players who were hardly used by their former teams,” said Cagayan coach Alvin Pua. “We know they’ll play with heart because they have something to prove.”
The Road Warriors are overflowing with talent, with half the team even suiting up for the Smart Gilas Pilipinas cadet team.
But Fernandez said that the talent of an all-star cast led by Nico Salva, RR Garcia, Kevin Alas, Ian Sangalang, Kirk Long and Greg Slaughter won’t be enough.
“We have the talent, but we have to continue working on our defense,” said Fernandez.