MARINERONG Pilipino and EcoOil-La Salle arranged a title clash in the Philippine Basketball Association D-League Aspirants’ Cup after hurdling their respective foes Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Juan Gomez de Liano caught fire when it mattered the most for the Skippers in their tough 69-64 win over top seed Apex Fuel-San Sebastian, while CJ Austria warmed up early to propel the Green Archers to a comfortable 97-74 victory over Adalem Construction-St. Clare.
Gomez de Liano, the shifty Gilas Pilipinas guard, uncorked eight points in the last 3:01 of the game, scoring back-to-back triples before the insurance layup with 52.4 seconds left to push Marinerong Pilipino up by four, 66-62.
Arvin Gamboa then put the game under wraps, firing the last three points including the game-sealing undergoal stab in the last 12.5 ticks as Marinerong Pilipino made its second Finals appearance.
“It was really all about our team mindset,” said Gomez de Liano, who led the Skippers with 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the clincher. “We just had the right mindset coming into this do-or-die game.”
Austria, meanwhile, delivered 19 of his 26 points in the first half as EcoOil-La Salle jumped to a 52-40 lead at the half and never looked back. They pushed that margin to as big as 27, 75-48, late in the third frame.
Austria also tallied five rebounds and three assists.
“I’m really happy and satisfied with the way we played. The boys just played really hard today and the things we were supposed to do last time around, we did it right today,” La Salle coach Derick Pumaren said.
This will be a chance for redemption for Marinerong Pilipino, which finished runner-up to BRT Sumisip-St. Clare back in the 2019 Foundation Cup.
On the other hand, Pumaren is also craving for success as he made his second PBA D-League Finals stint after coaching Centro Escolar University to a bridesmaid finish in the 2019 Aspirants’ Cup, losing to Cignal-Ateneo in four games
The best-of-three Finals start on Sunday.
The Skippers also drew solid games from guards AC Soberano, who had 14 points from two treys off the bench, and Jollo Go, who scored 11 in the clincher.
Kevin Quiambao also produced 16 points, four boards, two dimes, and two steals, and Michael Phillips tallied a double-double of 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, five blocks, and four steals to help Austria’s cause for the Green Archers.