NEWLY-minted PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup champion La Salle will not rest on its laurels just yet as it is out to hit the final gear in preparation for a bigger battle in the UAAP Season 85 next month.
For the Green Archers, capturing the D-League Aspirants’ Cup with a 2-1 series win over Marinerong Pilipino was just part of their long course to the UAAP, where they seek redemption after a narrow finale miss in Season 84.
“That’s why we’re here and that’s why we joined the D-League. We have to be a better team and not just better team but a championship-caliber team,” said coach Derrick Pumaren as La Salle ruled the eight-team tourney to mark D-League’s return from a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
“This is not really a gauge for us. It’s just part of the process. It’s gonna be a different arena when we get to the UAAP so we have to be ready,” he added.
In the UAAP do-or-die Final Four last season, La Salle were minutes away from advancing and setting a classic finals date with rival Ateneo after leading by 70-56 in the waning minutes only to crumble to a 78-74 loss against eventual champion University of the Philippines.
“We fell short against UP. We did not close out. That’s one thing we’re gonna work on, closing games we need to win. This is part of the program so I’m pretty sure this (D-League championship) will toughen the team,” added Mr. Pumaren.
Aside from the D-League and the 17-team Filoil Preseason Cup where La Salle made it to the semis, Mr. Pumaren’s wards will also troop to Japan for its final build-up before the UAAP wars in the first week of October.
The Green Archers will fly to Japan on Sept. 10 for a two-week training camp including at least six tune-up games with different varsity squads. — John Bryan Ulanday