JUMBO Plastic Linoleum remains in high spirits despite being forced into a knockout game for a semifinal slot in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup.
The Giants go for a berth in the Final Four one more time as they take on Blackwater Sports in the lone game on Thursday, 3 p.m. at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The third-seeded Giants, who entered the quarterfinals with a twice-to-beat edge, suffered a 78-86 loss to Foundation Cup champions Elite.
Joel Dualan, one of the assistant coaches of Jumbo Plastic head mentor Steve Tiu, said that while the 19-day break that came after finishing the elimination round early took its toll, the quarterfinal incentive also played a role in losing the game.
“The 19-day break really affected our rhythm,” said the man they call ‘El Aparador’ during his playing career. “Our outside shots also didn’t fall. The luxury of the twice-to-beat advantage caused the players to relax a bit.”
But Dualan maintained that the Giants remain confident about their chances of booking a semifinal appearance in only their second conference in the league.
“The players are still in high spirits. We’re positive that we can bounce back,” said Dualan.
With his sixth-seed team on the brink of a semifinal berth, Blackwater Sports coach Leo Isaac is determined to keep its momentum going and arrange a semifinal match with Big Chill.
“Definitely, the pressure is on their side,” Isaac said. “The confidence level of my players is very high. Momentum is on our side and we have the psychological advanatage.”
“All I have to do is remind my players that we are facing the same team that we beat last Tuesday,” added Isaac, whose team fell to the Giants in overtime, 79-72, during the elimination round.
Jumbo’s big man Jason Ballesteros was a non-factor in the series opener, scoring just two points while grabbing all his 11 rebounds in the fourth when the Giants were trying to make a comeback.
In contrast, Kevin Ferrer and Jericho Cruz combined for 31 points in backstopping Blackwater Sports’ pivotal run in the first and third quarters to take control of the game.