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Already setting sights at Basilan, DavOcc makes quick shift to San Juan

In just one simple announcement, the Tigers have to think about the Knights instead. MPBL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--One thing is for sure: Davao Occidental is scheduled to return to action on Wednesday.

The dilemma: the team is admittedly doing a sudden shift of focus on the squad that they will face.

Coach Don Dulay admitted that the Tigers really looked forward to finally taking on the Basilan Steel in Game 3 of the MPBL South Division Finals after their game was pushed a week back following two positive COVID-19 cases within the Steel's ranks.

[Related Story: Basilan-Davao Occidental decider postponed due to suspected COVID-19 case]

"We were really preparing for Basilan. Of course going into the finals you want to make sure you show everybody you deserve to be there. My players are ready but like again, it’s different times," Dulay said in the CPT Crossover Podcast on Tuesday night.

MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes on Saturday gave a necessary condition that all the other members of the Basilan squad who were initially tested negative for COVID-19 last week must be tested negative again on Monday for them to be cleared to return to action.

However, the PBA legend announced on Tuesday that four more Steel players were tested positive this time.

With the said condition not met, Duremdes declared the rubber match as a Basilan forfeiture, giving Davao Occidental the MPBL South title outright.

[Related Story: Davao Occidental takes MPBL South as 4 more Basilan players test positive for COVID-19]

With that, the Tigers will be facing the San Juan Knights instead on Wednesday at the start of the MPBL National Finals.

"We’re like, 'Okay. What do we work on? We didn’t get to watch no video of San Juan,'" Dulay relayed what his team talked about in a huddle when a league official called them about the forfeiture.

He then told his players to rely on "past history" instead, but that past history came way before the pandemic happened.

Both teams went on a hard fought full length finals series in April 2019 that was decided by the clutch heroics of Jhonard Clarito in the win-or-go-home Game 5 in Davao City to give San Juan the national title.

[Related Story: San Juan claims MPBL title at Davao Occidental on endgame push]

"Laking motivation din talaga yung natalo kami nung Game 5 especially sa amin yun," Davao Occidental player Joseph Terso said when asked about how the team approached the start of the ongoing season.

Both teams clashed again on Jan. 18, 2020 in Iloilo City with the Knights prevailing anew, 84-65.

[Related Story: San Juan repeats over Davao Occ in finals rematch]

If everything pushes through as planned, Davao Occidental gets a chance to get back at San Juan on Wednesday.

A potential disruption, however, is an appeal from Basilan regarding the forfeiture.

[Related Story: Basilan Steel appeal decider forfeiture]

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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