April 23, 2018

Zark's Burger-Lyceum, Che'Lu Bar&Grill-SSC start titular series

And then, there were two.

Zark's Burger-Lyceum and Che'Lu Bar and Grill-San Sebastian are the last teams standing in what has been one of the wildest conferences ever in league history as they meet in what is shaping up to be a nip-and-tuck best-of-three series to determine the winner of the 2018 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup.

Game 1 opens on Tuesday at Pasig Sports Center, with the tip-off set at 4p.m.

It's an unlikely showdown between two school-based teams which fought from lower seeds to set up the league's first ever championship round to not feature any of the elimination's top two teams.

Starting off as preseason favorites, the Jawbreakers looked humbled against veteran teams as they stumbled to a six-seed before playing their best basketball to date, first overcoming a twice-to-win disadvantage in the quarterfinals against CEU before sweeping two-seed Marinerong Pilipino in the semis.
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Through the course of this tear, coach Topex Robinson emphasized that his team is just approaching every game with the same mindset.

"We're just happy to be here. We don't have control on the other factors bukod sa amin lang. No disrespect to Che'Lu, but we just want to enjoy the Finals series," he said.

Leading MVP candidate CJ Perez has spearheaded this run for Zark's-Lyceum and has gotten tremendous support from guys like Mike Nzeusseu and Jaycee Marcelino through this stretch.

But as stellar as the Jawbreakers have been playing, Robinson thinks that his side remains the underdog in this meeting.

"Kahit anong mangyari, we're still the number six team entering the playoffs," he said, as Zark's-Lyceum guns to be the lowest seed ever to win a PBA D-League crown.
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That argument may be bolstered with the Jawbreakers losing to the Revellers, 97-88 in their eliminations meeting last Feb. 27.

Indeed, Che'Lu-San Sebastian has been a different team since then, dispatching Gamboa-St. Clare in the quarters before toppling top seed Akari-Adamson in the semifinals.

A huge reason for that has been the stellar play of its veterans, led by Jeff Viernes who has averaged 18.3 points in that run.

Unfortunately, Viernes will not be with the team after being called up by GlobalPort, leaving much of the responsibility on the hands of Michael Calisaan, Samboy de Leon, and Cedrick Ablaza.

Coach Stevenson Tiu, though, maintains his full belief on the Revellers' will to win.

"Our determination to win will carry us through," he said.