CIGNAL-Ateneo and Centro Escolar University clash in Game One of the 2019 PBA D-League Finals on Thursday at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Blue Eagles are coming in well-rested after sweeping Valencia City Bukidnon-SSCR last week in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, the eight-man Scorpions have been running on adrenaline since game-fixing allegations hit the team hard, but they were still able to survive St. Clare College Virtual Reality in three hard-fought games, none bigger than their 89-72 Game Three conquest last Tuesday.
The opener of the best-of-five championship series is set at 4 p.m.
The Eagles know they cannot take the Scorpions lightly in the titular showdown.
"They're in the finals for a reason. They've been playing undermanned and that's what makes them dangerous," said deputy coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
The Blue Eagles will lean on Ivorian center Ange Kouame, as well as its top dogs Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go and brothers Matt and Mike Nieto to draw first blood.
This will be Cignal's third championship appearance, although this will be the first with the Ateneo core. The past two finals runs were with the San Beda squad.
On the other hand, CEU wants to end this Cinderella run on a high note, with coach Derrick Pumaren not shying away from professing his pride seeing how his guys have fought throughout this campaign.
"For me, this team is already a champion. With all the adversities na nangyari, we still made it," he said.
"We know we're gonna be the underdog against Ateneo. We're facing the no. 1 college team in the land. But outside of the UAAP and the NCAA, we believe that we're also one of the best basketball programs in the land ngayon," said Pumaren.
Senegalese big man Maodo Malick Diouf will lead the charge as he'll be supported by Rich Guinitaran, Dave Bernabe and Franz Diaz.