• BASKETBALL

    Hawkeyes gun for D-League crown

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    Expectations weren’t grand for Cignal-San Beda at the start of the 2017 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup.

    Undergoing changes and reverting back to coach Boyet Fernandez, the main goal for the Hawkeyes was to foster chemistry with the team before the collegiate season tips off.

    But on Monday, the team can achieve something more as Cignal-San Beda seeks to sweep the best-of-three championship series against Racal at The Arena in San Juan City.

    More importantly, a title conquest would further cement Fernandez’ status as the winningest coach in league history as he guns for his seventh championship in eight Finals appearances.

    However, the seasoned mentor knows that closing out a series, especially in the title picture, is easier said than done.

    “Racal is a team capable of coming back,” said Fernandez, as he looked back on Cignal’s slim 93-85 Game 1 win on Thursday where it squandered a 21-point lead and had to fend off a late rally from the Tile Masters. “If you give Racal that kind of defense we had in fourth quarter, then we have a problem.”

    Wary of his team’s supposed let-ups late in the game, Fernandez hopes that the Hawkeyes understand the position they’re in, telling them that at this stage, no one can afford to relax if they want to win the crown.

    “It’s more of putting on the minds of my players that it’s not yet over until it’s over,” he said, as he banks on Conference MVP contenders Jason Perkins and Robert Bolick, as well as veteran guard Pamboy Raymundo.

    Meanwhile, Racal coach Jerry Codinera is also seeking to do the same, though on his side, with a little more desperation.

    Advancing to the Finals since joining the league in 2014, the soft-spoken mentor reminds the Tile Masters not to waste this golden opportunity and come out better following that Game 1 debacle.

    “We’ll try to equalize first. We’ll try to do better in practice and be in one page. Hopefully, we’ll do better on Monday.”

    Codinera is drawing positives from Racal’s second half fightback, although this time, he wants leader Kent Salado to buck his struggles and join Sidney Onwubere, Jackson Corpuz, and Rey Nambatac in this do-or-die tiff.

    “We have to keep it close. We’ll keep it at a striking distance,”| he said.

    Tip-off is at 4 p.m., following the short awarding ceremony for this conference’s Most Valuable Player.

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