CafeFrance, Phoenix square off as PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Finals showdown begins
Phoenix's Eric Gonzales and Cafe France's Egay Macaraya lock horns. Jaime Campos / Dante Peralta

PHOENIX Petroleum-Far Eastern University and CafeFrance-Centro Escolar University are both looking to draw first blood as they begin their best-of-five title series in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

Phoenix Petroleum hopes to contain CafeFrance’s Congolese import Rodrigue Ebondo, who gives the Bakers a size advantage in the finals, according to Accelerators coach Eric Gonzales.

“Ang greatest challenge is wala kaming import and how are we going to limit Ebondo. Hindi siya napapagod. Medyo dehado kami doon,” said Gonzales of Ebondo who had 26 points and 19 rebounds in the Bakers' 83-74 win over the Accelerators last March 3.

CafeFrance coach Egay Macaraya, however, thinks otherwise, saying Phoenix’s core of FEU Tamaraws who won the UAAP Season 78 title a few months back are battle-tested. Still, Macaraya will lean on his players’ championship experience following the Bakers’ run at the Foundation Cup title last year.

“Nag-champion na yung mga bata and I think they're matured enough para maglaro sa mga crucial games,” Macaraya said.

Macaraya’s squad also seeks to contain the production of Ed Daquioag, who averaged 27 points in the semifinal sweep of Tanduay, along with other marked men like Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, and RR Pogoy.

The Accelerators and the Bakers slug it out in Game One at 3 p.m.

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