• Rhum Masters, Bakers eye semis

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    Tanduay Rhum and Cafe France will try to capitalize on their twice-to-beat advantages as they face separate foes in the quarterfinals round of the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) D-League Aspirants’ Cup playoffs today at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

    The Bakers will take the first attempt to enter the semis as they battle Jose Rizal University (JRU) at 3 p.m. while the Rhum Masters square off with AMA Online Education at 5 p.m.

    Tanduay head coach Lawrence Chongson warns his players not to be complacent against the Titans.

    Mark Cruz of Tanduay drives around Roldan Sara of Batangas in the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association D-League Aspirants’ Cup. PBA PHOTO

    “We still have to win. Even though we have the twice-to-beat advantage, we still need to compete and find a way to win,” said Chongson.

    Leading the charge for the Rhum Masters are former Letran Knights Mark Cruz and Bong Quinto and ex-pro Jerwin Gaco.

    “Every game is a do-or-die for us. Whatever it takes, I’ll take it as long as we survive,” added Chongson, as a win will put them in a best-of-three semis showdown against top seed Cignal-San Beda.

    AMA head coach Mark Herrera said the loss of Juami Tiongson was a big blow on their campaign but they need to find ways to stay alive in the tournament.

    “Juami averaged 20-plus points a game plus he really creates a game for me. Though, it’s painful to lose him, we’re happy that he’s getting a shot back in the PBA,” Herrera said.

    Tiongson got a call up from NLEX in the PBA.

    The Titans will bank on Jeron Teng, Jay-R Taganas, PJ Barua and newly signed Von Tambeling.

    Meanwhile, Cafe France will rely on Paul Desiderio, Michael Calisaan, and Rod Ebondo against the Heavy Bombers of head coach Vergel Meneses.

    JRU will be bannered by guards Tey Teodoro and Jhaps Bautista.

    Bakers coach Egay Macaraya hopes his wards have learned their lessons in their back-to-back losses entering the playoffs.

    “We hope we learned our lessons and do much better in our quarterfinal game against JRU,” said Macaraya, whose win will shove them in the semis duel versus No. 2 seed Racal.

    Heavy Bombers coach Vergel Meneses, meanwhile, wants to see a better performance from his squad against Café France.

    “All the teams are strong especially Cafe France. We’re ready, we’re here to gain experience, and we want to keep on fighting,” Meneses said.

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