|Mike Nieto is among those expected to carry the fight for the Blue Eagles as Thirdy Ravena remains out. PBA Media Group (file photo)|
By Dugout Philippines
MANILA—Cignal-Ateneo looks to continue its flight atop the 2019 PBA D-League when it meets Family Mart-Enderun on Monday at Paco Arena.
The Blue Eagles went off in their season opener last Feb. 14, blasting Go for Gold-CSB, 103-75, to gain early leadership in the Aspirants Group.
And the performance even surprised coach Tab Baldwin, considering the internal rebuild he has subjected his side to in the offseason.
"We've for some guys in our roster that we're reconstructing their shots. We're not doing a lot, really, but the guys played very efficiently for us and that's one thing I really liked," said the former national team coach.
Isaac Go, Matt Nieto, Adrian Wong and Ivorian center Ange Kouame had a rousing debut in their developmental ranks, though Cignal-Ateneo will miss the services of Thirdy Ravena for the second straight game with the high-flying swingman still with Gilas Pilipinas.
Family Mart-Enderun, though, is raring to prove that it belongs in the big leagues as coach Pipo Noundou banks on Mark Nunez, Valandre Chauca, and Cameroonian slotman Colince Wabo.
Backstopping the Titans are ex-pros Fonzo Gotladera and Marvin Hayes.
Game time is at 2 p.m., followed by the Foundation Group clash of Chadao-FEU and Valencia City Bukidnon-SSCR at 4 p.m.
For Tamaraws coach Olsen Racela, he's just glad that his side was able to get their campaign on the right foot after an 84-62 rout of SMDC-NU last Feb. 18 as he aims to give his boys more exposure through the developmental league.
"We're here to get exposure for the players. It's another opportunity for us to get better," he said, with Alec Stockton and L-Jay Gonzales stepping up for their side.
But what awaits them is a dangerous Valencia-SSCR crew, which is rich in experience with Allyn Bulanadi and RK Ilagan leading the way.
The duo were pivotal in the Golden Harvest's 110-104 overtime thriller over Marinerong Pilipino, and coach Egay Macaraya already sees bright things ahead with the two at the forefront of the battle.
"I guess yun ang bini-build namin ngayon, building character ng Baste," he said.
Follow the site on Twitter: @DugoutPH