Alaska will be gunning for a commanding 3-0 series lead when it faces reigning champion San Miguel Beer (SMB) today in Game 3 of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
Game time was set at 7 p.m.
Heavily relying on Vic Manuel’s prowess, Alaska beat SMB in Game 1 (100-91) and Game 2 (83-80) to enjoy a 2-0 edge in the series.
“Vic [Manuel] is the muscleman and he has the capacity to dominate the game. He led us in scoring and defense in the first two games,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton. “Vic leads us in scoring also in all conferences.”
Manuel, a former Philippine College of Business Administration forward, posted 24 points to match his career-high record in Game 1 and then scored 18 points in Game 2 including two crucial defensive plays.
Compton, however, warned his players that they would experience a real battle in Lucena as the Beermen vowed to come back strong in Game 3.
“We expect a real battle in Lucena,” he said via text message. “While it is a huge opportunity for us to really assert ourselves in this series, it is also a great opportunity for them. We will have to really put pressure on Yancy [De Ocampo] while containing the rest of their superstars.”
“Hopefully we will be able to have our best game of the series yet.”
Beermen head coach Leo Austria, for his part, said that Game 3 is a must win for them. “Well, Game 3 is a must win for us, but the good thing is we have an opportunity to win against them even without June Mar Fajardo,” he said.
Fajardo, who missed the first two meetings, won’t play in Game 3 because of a left knee injury. “We won’t gamble him [Fajardo] if he’s not 100 percent healthy. His health is more important than this championship.”
Without Fajardo, back-up center Yancy De Ocampo and 6-foot-7 Jay-R Reyes need to step up to fill in the void left by the reigning two-time Most Valuable Player.
Arwind Santos, Gabby Espinas and swingman Ryan Arana are also expected to take charge along with backcourt players Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid, Chris Ross and Chris Lutz.
Besides Manuel, the Aces will lean on hardworking forward Calvin Abueva, guards Jayvee Casio, RJ Jazul, Chris Exciminiano, Cyrus Baguio and Chris Banchero, veterans Eric Menk and Dondon Hontiveros, Sonny Thoss and Noy Baclao.
The Aces are keen on dethroning the Beermen to win their 14th overall championship and fourth in Philippine Cup.