Battle lines have been drawn for Sunday’s semi-finals, to be contested on a best-of-three games format, as the second season of the Angkor Beer Cambodian Basketball League co-sponsored by Pepsi and Smart enters its climactic phase at the Olympic Stadium Indoor Arena.
The draw of lots to determine the last four line-ups threw up one big surprise, pitting Davies Paints against the Emperors in what is a repeat of last season’s grand finale. Both sides have gone through some change of personnel apart from assuming different brand names.
But before the former Patriots and IRB the Lord, as Paints and Emperors were known respectively last season, hit the court, Pate 310 and Mekong Tigers will play out the first game of their semi-final clash.
“The level of intensity now will be far greater compared to the regular season. We are as keen and determined as any of the other teams to make the final,” was the reaction of Davies Paints coach Chris Borja, who led his team to a topline finish in the round robin.
Interestingly, the only game the Paints lost during the regular season was to the Emperors, but those were early days when two key players from the Philippines – Janno Cunanan and Aimar Sabayo – had not joined Borja’s roster.
It is no secret that once these two players started out, the Paints were a transformed lot, twice recording bumper-century scores in their trouble-free run as the best offence on view past the round robin and the quarter-final rout of CCPL Warriors.
The Paints are clearly enjoying the run of the race but the side is well aware of the fact that the Emperors by far have the best defence to boast, despite their notable struggle against the Sabay Tiger Mosquitoes in the quarter-finals, which went all the way to the decider.
Emperors captain Monh Ratana is cautiously optimistic of his team’s chances, while making it plain that his players will have to touch their best to handle a well rounded opposition like the Paints.
“We may have needed three games to beat Sabay Tiger Mosquitoes but that also held mirror to our fighting qualities,” said Ratana, whose penchant for and success with three-pointers are fairly well advertised.
There is nothing much to choose between Pate 310 and Mekong Tigers since a mere three points separated the two in their round robin clash in September. But both sides concede that the outcome of the first game would have a profound bearing on the series.
Pate coach Neay Mengley is predicting a tough and testy game but is quite confident that his team, who defeated Smart Dragons 2-0 in the quarter-finals, will wind up on the brighter side of it all.
Mekong Tigers coach Hun Chantheoun, meanwhile, is counting on his team’s 2-0 quarter-final win over Extra Joss Fighters as a positive change after the team’s four straight defeats in the round robin.
Mekong Tigers v Pate 310 – 2pm
Emperors v Davies Paints – 4pm