Gems bracing for tougher match with Cagayan Valley squad beefed up by Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa
Moala Tautuaa was still with ABL side Malaysia Dragons when the Rising Suns battled the Gems in the eliminations. Dante Peralta

CEBUANA Lhuillier faces early semifinalist Cagayan Valley on Thursday to start off their semifinal series in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena.

Gametime is at 4 p.m.

The Gems lost to the Rising Suns, 79-76, in their elimination round game last November 13. In that game, Cagayan Valley was still without top overall pick Moala Tautuaa.

The Rising Suns swept the elimination round, winning all their 11 games in the elimination round including a win over the star-studded Hapee Fresh Fighters squad.

Cebuana Lhuillier coach Boycie Zamar said it will be much more challenging for the Gems to play Cagayan Valley as they try to contain the Fil-Tongan cager.

“Last time nung lumaban kami sa kanila, wala si Tautuaa. We will have our hands full,” said Zamar.

The Gems made it through the semifinals after overcoming Jumbo Plastic Linoleum’s twice-to-beat advantage, which Zamar believes could be an advantage over the well-rested Rising Suns.

“Galing kami through the stepladder. Pero in a way, may momentum kami at may kumpiyansa kahit papaano,” said Zamar.

Norbert Torres is expected to match up against Tautuaa in the series. The former La Salle Green Archers have been one of the key players of the Gems in leading his team to a return trip to the semifinals after reaching this far in the 2014 Foundation Cup.

“I think lamang si Tautuaa doon. Not to discredit Torres but he has his hands full. But both players are stepping up,” said Zamar.

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