Games Tuesday (Bataan People’s Center):
7 p.m. – Manila vs Bulacan
9 p.m. – Bataan vs Caloocan
THE MPBL Datu Cup begins its playoffs on Tuesday at the Bataan People’s Center as the host team and top-seeded squad Bataan Risers take the floor against the Caloocan Supremos even as Manila and Bulacan start their own best-of-three series.
Bataan will face Caloocan in the main game at 9 p.m. right after the match between Manila and Bulacan at 7 p.m.
The Risers are the owners of the tournament’s best record in the elimination round, winning 23 out of the 25 games. It was a complete turnaround from last season’s campaign where the team ended up in eighth place and barely made it to the playoffs.
Basketball legend Jojo Lastimosa’s first stint as head coach in a big-time basketball circuit is turning out to be a big hit and he was the one responsible in retooling the lineup previously anchored on just Gary David and now has become a team that has become more unpredictable.
From Bataan’s depth chart, Lastimosa can rely on old reliables Pamboy Raymundo, Byron Villarias and Ryan Batino, ex-pro Rob Celiz, prized acquisition guard Yvan Ludovice, Richard Escoto, and the vastly improving Gab Dagangon among others.
The Risers will be facing a team that has also gone a long way – the Supremos, last season’s league doormat.
This season, the Supremos will be appearing as the eighth-seeded squad and face the Herculean task of pulling off an upset against the best team in the tournament put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.
Fourth seed Manila takes on No. 5 Bulacan in their own best-of-three series.
The Robust Energy Capsule-backed Stars are favored against the Mighty Sports-supported Kuyas, who have been struggling lately following the departure of some of their key players like Jorey Napoles and GBoy Babilonia who moved up to the pros and Hans Thiele, who was released just recently.
Coached by the legendary Philip Cezar, a 15-time champion in the PBA, Manila is loaded with firepower anchored on All-Stars Chris Bitoon and Aris Dionisio, ex-pros Riel Cervantes, Marvin Hayes and Marcy Arellano, Maclean Sabellina, Mac Montilla and Drian Celada among others.
But Britt Reroma’s Bulacan team is no pushover either as it still has the core of last season’s squad bannered by JR Taganas, James Martinez, Stephen Siruma, and new recruits ex-pros Jason Melano, Jeric Cañada and the returning Ogie Menor.