Aspirants’ Cup best of three semifinals start today at Big Dome

Games Today(Smart Araneta Coliseum)9 a.m. – Marinerong Pilipino vs. Apex Fuel-San Sebastian11 a.m. – EcoOil-La Salle vs. Adalem Construction-St. Clare

THE RACE is on for the last four teams standing as Apex Fuel-San Sebastian, Marinerong Pilipino, EcoOil-La Salle and Adalem Construction-St. Clare bid to draw first blood in the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup best-of-three semifinals on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Seeded as No. 1 after a stellar elimination round campaign, the Golden Stags aim to pick up where they left off against No. 4 Marinerong Pilipino at 9 a.m. followed by the collision between No. 2 Green Archers and No. 3 Saints at 11 a.m.

Marinero and St. Clare needed to fend off their gritty counterparts in the quarterfinals to arrange a Final Four duel with San Sebastian and La Salle, which gained free semis passages after topping the elims.

Enjoying long breaks and stature as higher-ranked squads, the Golden Stags and the Green Archers, however, warned their wards that the semis will be a whole different battlefield.

“St. Clare is still a tough team and as much as we come in as the two-seed, we have to respect our opponents,” noted La Salle mentor Derrick Pumaren.

The Skippers and the Saints came off different paths to the semis, equipping them with the needed momentum and morale entering the duel with the giants.

As Marinero made quick work of No. 5 Centro Escolar University in one try in the quarters, St. Clare needed to pour everything in surviving a two-game stand with No. 6 Builders Warehouse-Santo capped off by a narrow 90-87 win in the knockout match. — John Bryan Ulanday