By Jonas Terrado
(Ynares Sports Arena, Pasig City)
5 p.m. – Che’Lu vs Go for Gold
Che’Lu Bar and Grill and Go for Gold, the top two teams after the eliminations, begin their best-of-five finals showdown for the PBA D-League Foundation Cup crown today at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Gametime is set at 5 p.m. with top seed Che’Lu holding the psychological edge against second-ranked Go for Gold for sweeping their two meetings in the double-round eliminations.
Revellers coach Stevenson Tiu, however, downplayed such advantage as he expects a different battle in the pinnacle of the PBA’s developmental tournament.
“There’s no advantage when it comes to playing in a championship game,” said Tiu, whose team was pushed to the limit by Centro Escolar University in their best-of-three semifinal duel.
Che’Lu made its way to the finals behind lightning-quick guard Jeff Viernes, who finished with 26 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals in the Revellers’ 86-73 win over the Scorpions in the deciding game Tuesday.
Also expected to deliver for Che’Lu is veteran center-forward JR Taganas.
Go for Gold, meanwhile, is out to avenge those two defeats against Che’Lu while going into the series well-rested after sweeping Marinerong Pilipino-TIP in the other best-of-three semis.
“They’re the No. 1 team and they beat us twice,” said Go for Gold coach Charles Tiu. “For some reason, they have our number but it would be nice to get back at them in the finals.”
The Scratchers will be led by Gab Banal, who became the seventh man in D-League history to produce a triple-double with 24 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in the series-clinching 103-75 rout of Marinerong Pilipino last week.
The title clash will pit a battle between Viernes and Banal, considered as the top two contenders for the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
But Viernes is more eager to put Che’Lu on top this time after failing to see action in the team’s title defeat to Zark’s Burgers-Lyceum in the Aspirants’ Cup Finals after a brief PBA stint with GlobalPort.
Che’Lu will also bank on ex-pro Levi Hernandez, Chris Bitoon, Jesse Collado, Jay-R Taganas, Jordan Sta. Ana and Stephen Siruma while Go for Gold has Matt Salem, Jai Reyes, Jerwin Gaco, Rey Publico, Chris Porter, Vince Tolentino, Ron Dennison, and possibly University of the Philippines star Paul Desiderio.
Desiderio missed the semifinals after taking part in UP’s recent training camp in Serbia.