Reigning champion San Miguel Beer (SMB) aims to score its fifth victory and strengthen its hold of the top spot when it battles Meralco today in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
The match between the Beermen and the Bolts was set at 7 p.m. after the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters vs GlobalPort Batang Pier game 4:15 p.m.
“We tagged Meralco as of the contenders this season, so we expect them to deliver. We respect Meralco a lot because of coach Norman (Black),” San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria told The Manila Times in an interview. “We will give our very best against them.”
The Beermen, winner of back-to-back Philippine Cup crowns and holding a 4-1 win-loss record, will rely on three-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Gabby Espinas, Marcio Lassiter, playmaker Alex Cabagnot, Ronald Tubid and Ryan Roose Garcia against the Bolts.
The Bolts are coming off a disappointing 90-94 loss to the Fuel Masters and a 79-81 loss to the Alaska Aces, for a 2-3 win-loss record.
“It will be a huge challenge for us going up against SMB,” said Meralco coach Norman Black via text message. “Trying to control the paint versus June Mar will be our problem but we must also put up a strong team defense because of their overall talent.”
“Defensive rebounding will be the big key for us in this game,” he added.
The Bolts will lean on rookie Jonathan Grey, Reynel Hugnatan, Jared Dillinger, Cliff Hodge, center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Kelly Nabong, Chris Newsome, rookie Ed Daquioag, Baser Amer and Joseph Yeo as they face the Beermen.
Meanwhile, GlobalPort with a 3-2 win-loss record is keen on bouncing back from a frustrating 91-99 defeat against Blackwater last week when it faces Phoenix Petroleum
The Batang Pier’s charge will be led by Terrence Romeo, Stanley Pringle, Nino “KG” Canaleta, Von Pessumal, Billy Mamaril, Mick Pennisi, point guard Mike Cortez, Anthony Semerad and Jay-R Quinahan.
The Fuel Masters with a 3-3 win-loss record, on the other hand, are gunning for back-to-back victories after beating the Bolts last Wednesday.
Rookie Mathew Wright, veteran swingman Cyrus Baguio, Mark Borboran, JC Intal, Gelo Alolino, Norbert Torres, John Wilson and Simon Enciso are expected to step up for Phoenix.
Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia told his players to be cautious against the tandem of Romeo and Pringle also known as the “Slash Brothers.”
“We must find a way to limit the Slash Brothers. It’s going to take a solid team defense to take away some of their explosiveness,” he said.