Preseason favorite Marinerong Pilipino and Zark's Burger-Lyceum clash in Game 1 of thier 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup semi-final duel at the Pasig Sports Center.
"We have to be ready to play for 58 minutes, meaning playing the regulation and two overtimes," he said. "The key here is sustain. You cannot relax against them."
Still riding the wave of their eight-game winning streak, the Skippers' confidence are at a sky-high going into the 12 p.m. tiff. But coach Koy Banal knows that his team's placing as the two-seed is already irrelevant as they go back to zero in the best-of-three semi-finals.
"Ayaw namin na mangyari sa amin yung nangyari sa Flying V na they did not make it to the Finals," he said, referring to the Thunder which failed to make it past the Final Four after sweeping the elimination round in the 2017 Foundation Cup. "We just want to be ready. We have experience and we'll see who's really going to push themselves to the limit."
Banal has every reason to be wary, especially after the six-seed Jawbreakers bucked their twice-to-win disadvantage and swept three-seed CEU in the quarterfinals.
More importantly, this is a different Zark's-Lyceum team from the one Marinerong Pilipino beat, 94-92 back in opening day almost three months ago.
The Skippers are bringing back Denok Miranda to the court to provide the veteran know-how to their young core led by Rian Ayonayon, Alvin Pasaol, and Abu Tratter.
Jawbreakers coach Topex Robinson, meanwhile, wants to sustain his side's free-flowing approach, noting that as the underdogs, they have nothing to lose.
"I guess for us, everybody is allowed to make mistakes. I could make mistakes and I won't be ashamed to admit it to the team. Pag ganun ang mga bata, they just enjoy. You're not looking kung lamang na ang kalaban, they just keep on playing and they're enjoying this moment," he said.
Robinson also shared his excitement for what shapes to be a challenging chess match against Banal, noting: "We know coach Koy and Joel are really good basketball brains and it's just going to make me better. I have nothing to lose and I'll be up against coaches I idolize and I'm close with, so I'm excited for the series."
CJ Perez, Mike Nzeusseu, and MJ Ayaay are expected to spearhead Zark's-Lyceum as it has its sights set on taking the 1-0 lead.