Phoenix coach Gonzales braces for tough war against motivated Tanduay in D-League finals
Eric Gonzales sees no clear favorites in the D-League title clash between his Phoenix team and Tanduay. Jaime Campos

PHOENIX hopes to bank on their championship experience when they face first-timer Tanduay in Game One of the 2016 PBA D-League Foundation Cup finals on Thursday. 

The Aspirants Cup champion Accelerators look to add the Foundation Cup crown when they face the D-League pioneer Rhum Masters in the 4:30 p.m opening match of the best-of-three title series at the Alonte Gym in Binan, Laguna. 

"Our goal is to be here. We want to win and play with all our hearts," said Phoenix coach Eric Gonzales, whose team dominated Cafe France on Tuesday to clinch the finals berth. 

But Gonzales said there's more work cut out for his team, which is led by MVP contender Mike Tolomia, and fellow former FEU stalwarts Mac Belo and Russel Escoto, together with ex-UST ace Ed Daquioag. The Phoenix coach is wary of Tanduay’s veteran core, despite sweeping their encounters first-timers on the D-League finals in the elimination round. 

"We are playing with the veterans and the best UAAP players versus Tanduay and we hope that our team will play as one team," he said.

"Malayo pa kami. Marami pa kaming kailangang i-improve," added Gonzales. 

Tanduay enters the finals on a high after completing their upset over top-seed Racal in the semis, and both coach Lawrence Chongson and his floor general Gelo Alolino are confident they can add another milestone in the finals.

"Siguro yung momentum namin going to the finals from semifinals (yung edge namin). And kung maglaro kami as a team, the same as how we played sa Racal," Alolino said. 

It’s exactly the confidence of the Rhum Masters that has Gonzales on the edge, and hopes his Phoenix team is ready to face a motivated Tanduay squad in the opener. 

"Tomorrow's game is exciting for both of us. Nothing is certain," he said.

"We will just try to be at our best and hopefully God will bless our effort to honor Him," added Gonzales.

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