Games Saturday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
10:30 a.m. – Builders Warehouse-UST vs EcoOil-La Salle
12:30 p.m. – Marinerong Pilipino vs Apex Fuel-San Sebastian
Marinerong Pilipino begins its quest for a maiden crown in the developmental league when it faces Apex Fuel-San Sebastian Saturday in the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Touted as one of the top teams in the eight-team field, pressure is on for the Skippers as they try to finally get over the hump behind former Japan B.League second division imports Juan Gomez de Liano and Kemark Carino.
But coach Yong Garcia downplayed all those talks, insisting competition is as open race featuring eight balanced the teams.
“Lahat ng sumali ngayon kayang manalo ng championship, so importante para sa amin to compete every game,” he said.
Marinerong Pilipino also parades Jollo Go and the Mapua Cardinals core led by Paolo Hernandez, Brian Lacap, and Warren Bonifacio.
Tip-off is at 12:30 p.m., with the Skippers bracing for a tough challenge against the Golden Stags, which will lean on veterans Ichie Altamirano, Ken Villapando, and Romel Calahat.
Rebuilding teams in EcoOil-La Salle and Builders Warehouse-UST, meanwhile, collide at the 10:30 a.m. opener.
The Green Archers will field eight rookies led by Raven Cortez, Mur Alao, EJ Abadam, as well as Isaiah Blanco-Hontiveros, the son of PBA great Dondon Hontiveros.
“We’re really focusing on our team development and we’ll try to absorb every experience we can get in this tournament knowing na mataas naman ang level of competition in the D-League,” said assistant coach Gian Nazario on behalf of head coach Derick Pumaren.
Kevin Quiambao, however, is expected to sit out the season opener as he’s with Gilas Pilipinas set to fly for Indonesia for the 2022 Fiba Asia Cup.
Still, all eyes will be on Fil-Am big man Michael Phillips who has proven himself to be a rebounding demon and earned his spot in the Mythical Team this past UAAP Season 84.
On the other hand, the Growling Tigers will lean on Sherwin Concepcion, Bryan Santos, Nic Cabanero, and American reinforcement Willy Wilson, with interim coach Albert Alocillo tasked to handle the team this conference.