SECOND Conference titlists Pioneer Pro Tibay lead the cast as 14 teams engage in a battle royale for the opening leg honors of the PBA 3x3 Lakas ng Tatlo Third Conference beginning Saturday at Robinsons Magnolia.
The Pro Tibay enter the two-day competition with a big bull's eye on their backs after stealing the thunder from the heavyweights and past leg winners and taking the most coveted crown of Conference 2 last month.
Pioneer Coach Lester del Rosario still considers his team a dark horse ranged against the powerhouses.
"Bale, underdogs pa rin kami. Almost all teams nag-level up din. So kami, gagawin lang namin lahat ang best namin and bring exciting games sa mga manonood lalo na nilipat sa malls ang games," said del Rosario, son of the late Aric del Rosario, former PBA assistant coach.
Still, del Rosario admitted the big responsibility on the shoulders of Pioneer's Gian Abrigo, Christian Rivera, Robin Rono and debuting Reeve Ugsang, in the wake of the team's success.
"Siyempre, since kami ang champions (last conference), we'll try every game to play as champions," he said.
Pioneer is set for an early test with revenge-seeking Sista Super Sealers as its opening rivals in Pool B. Pioneer and Sista are joined by two-leg winner Meralco in this bracket.
Limitless App, the First Conference ruler and bronze-winning representatives in the Southeast Asian Games, heads Pool C with Jorey Napoles and Reymar Caduyac joining forces with Nico Salva and Alfrancis Tamsi minus 5-on-5 top draft pick Brandon Ganuelas Rosser. Purefoods, Cavitex and Master Sardines challenge the Appmasters in the group.
Two-leg victor TnT is in Pool A with Terrafirma, Barangay Ginebra and comebacking Zamboanga Valientes while Platinum Karaoke, San Miguel Beer and NorthPort make up Pool D.
Games begin at 10 a.m. with the Dyip and the Gin Kings hitting the half-court first. Fourteen games are on tap for Day 1 as 12 matches covering the remainder of the elims up to the leg finals are slated for Day 2 on Sunday. (OL)