Fancied Caida continues to live up to its billing as a legitimate title contender in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup and prized playmaker Jiovani Jalalon is convinced the Tile Masters’ biggest foe isn’t among their 8 other rivals but themselves.
“Tingin ko sarili namin ang matinding kalaban namin,” said the 5-foot-9 Jalalon following Caida’s dominant 118-86 victory over slumping University of the Philippines-QRS/Jam Liner on Tuesday night at the Filoil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
The victory, their 2nd straight and 5th overall in 6 matches, enabled the Tile Masters to forge a share of the lead with powerhouse CafeFrance, the reigning Foundation Cup titlist, while securing the 2nd twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Former Jose Rizal U hotshot Philip Paniamogan scattered a team-high 19 points, 11 of them coming in the 2nd frame, while Jonathan Grey and Jalalon combined for 34 markers in another balanced offensive attack shown by the Tile Masters.
While 8 other teammates also scored at least 5 points, Jalalon still could not help but rued the struggles endured by the Tile Masters in the 1st half against the Maroons, who proved a tough to crack early on but eventually imploded, leading to an even 3-3 mark.
“Nu’ng first half, hindi kami nagpapasahan,” lamented Jalalon, aware of their shocking two-assist output in the 1st 20 minutes before racking up 16 dimes in the 2nd half.
“Pero pagdating ng halftime, nag-usap-usap kami kaya bumalik rin ang teamwork. May tiwala naman ako sa mga teammates ko. Naniniwala ako na malakas talaga kami kasi malalim rin ang rotation,” said the Cagayan de Oro City native.
Caida coach Caloy Garcia also offered the same view.
“We’re still looking to get better despite the win. I think there are still times where we relax too much so my reminder before the game was in order for everybody to get to play, everybody has to give 100 percent so I was a bit disappointed on how we started the game that we’re just riding along,” he said.
A timely pep talk from Garcia at the break worked wonders for the Tile Masters, who eventually stepped on the gas and left the fading Maroons eating their dust, underscored by a big 66-41 point difference in the 2nd half.
“The nice thing about it is that in the second half everybody pushed and everybody ran our offense. I told them, if we want to win games, we have to keep on running because in terms of depth we’re a bit heavy. We just have to push the ball every time,” said Garcia.
Caida takes on free-falling Mindanao Aguilas on Tuesday at the Filoil-Flying V Arena and Garcia feels they could fine-tune their offense against the zone, something they struggled to deal with in their 87-90 setback to CafeFrance last Feb. 11.
“They (Aguilas) like to play zone (defense) so that’s a good practice for us because that’s one thing that we have to work on. Most of our rivals like to don’t like to play zone except for CafeFrance and that’s the game we lost. We just have to be ready for that,” stressed Garcia. — By Jerome Lagunzad