Tanduay, Phoenix brace for tough finals grind

PBA (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

BIÑAN--For Coach Eric Gonzales, he has already achieved his goal for his team in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup.

"Our goal is to be [in the finals]," said Gonzales, whose Phoenix nailed the first finals berth on Tuesday at the STRIKE Gym in Bacoor, getting a chance to become only the second team to complete a D-League grand slam.

But for Coach Lawrence Chongson, his Tanduay side merely joining Phoenix in the best-of-three championship series is not yet enough.

"We want to go all the way, so walang celebration. We'll go back to the drawing board," said Chongson, whose team had to overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage once again to take the other spot in the Last Dance, its first time since joining the league as one of its pioneering members.

The Rhum Masters and the Accelerators begin their race-to-two showdown for all the marbles on Thursday at the Alonte Sports Center at 4:30 p.m., but Chongson believes their backs are against the wall if the elimination round history is to be considered.

"Malakas ang kalaban namin. Di pa namin tinatalo. Kailangang pagplanuhan namin sila," Chongson said.

However, Gonzales implied that he does not want his team to be complacent despite going 2-0 against them in the preliminaries.

"Magaling na team yan," Gonzales described their opponents.

The Thursday opener will be the first time that a PBA D-League finals game is held outside Metro Manila.

The Game 1 winner can clinch the series next Tuesday back at the STRIKE Gym. Should the losing side in the opener bounce back in Game 2, the rubber match will happen on Thursday also at the Bacoor arena, also marking the first time an entire PBA D-League finals series takes place outside the suburbs of the nation's capital, further sparking the league's goal to reach out to the other provinces.

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