Blackwater shoots for a fifth victory to keep a franchise best start while the Star Hotshots seek a fourth consecutive win when they collide against separate opponents in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup today at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The Elite, who are coming off an impressive win over the GlobalPort Batang Pier, will be battling the winless Mahindra Floodbuster in the first game at 3 p.m. to be followed by the Manila Classico rivalry game between the Star Hotshots and the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings at 5:15 p.m.
A win by the Elite will send them to a franchise 5-2 win-loss best start since entering the league two years ago as one of the two expansion teams. They are sporting a 4-2 win-loss record after back-to-back triumphs.
“We will give our best effort in our game tomorrow to have a better hold of the No. 2 spot in the team standings and to have a great Christmas celebration,” Blackwater coach Leo Isaac told The Manila Times via text message. “We are preparing very hard against Mahindra.”
This year’s top overall pick rookie Mac Belo piled up 20 points on a perfect 11-of-11 shots in the foul line to go along with six rebounds and two steals in a win against GlobalPort. Aside from Belo, Reil Cervantes, Nards Pinto and Arthur Dela Cruz will be trying to lead the Elite to a third straight win.
Mahindra, which stays winless in five games, is keen on getting out of a five-game slump. Despite holding a disappointing 0-5 win-loss record, assistant coach Chris Gavina believes the Floodbuster would stop the bleeding in the Christmas day.
But Gavina warned his players that it won’t be easy.
“Our main focus all week has been on our defensive toughness and offensive efficiency,” said Gavina. “I simply told our guys to let’s give ourselves the best Christmas gift with our very first victory this conference.”
Playmaker LA Revilla, Mark Yee, Nico Elorde, Mike DiGregorio, Jason Ballesteros, Ryan Arana, Alex Mallari, Jeric Teng and Philip Pandimogan, among others, are expected to step up for Mahindra against Blackwater.
“Blackwater now has a solid core of players who have bought in their system and our guys are slowly but surely building our team chemistry and understanding how to run our offense and execute our defensive schemes.”
Meanwhile, the Star Hotshots are expecting a tougher game when they play the Gin Kings. Although the Hotshots started the season poorly on 0-2, the crew of coach Chito Victolero is now looking for a fourth straight win.
“It’s surely going to be tough and close but I’m confident we can survive,” said the first year Hotshots coach Victolero. “I’m thankful the players finally believe in the system and they are already playing as a team. We need to maintain that against the league’s favorite team.”
They are holding a 3-2 record now behind the efforts of guard Allein Maliksi, Jean Marc Pingris, Ian Sanggalang, Paul Lee, Peter June Simon, Mark Barroca, Rafi Reavis, Justin Melton and rookie Jio Jalalon. They are coming off an impressive win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
Ginebra, on the other hand, is hoping to bounce back from a previous defeat and improve its current 2-3 win-loss record. The Gin Kings will be relying on Japeth Aguilar, Solomon Mercado, LA Tenorio, Earl Scottie Thompson, Kevin Ferrer, Joe Devance and veteran Mark Caguioa against the Hotshots.
“Christmas Day games are always difficult to play because of all the distractions that go on, but there is a lot of honor in playing the game as well. We’re blessed to have this opportunity,” said Ginebra multi-titled coach Tim Cone.
“Add to the fact that it’s the Manila Classico and being held at the Philippine Arena, it makes this year’s edition especially exciting,” he added. “It would be great to reward our fans with our best effort and finish the year with a win.”