• Champion SMB, Ginebra begin quarterfinals campaign

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    Justin Brownlee of the Gin Kings guards Allen Durham of the Bolts during a Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governors’ Cup game at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Justin Brownlee of the Gin Kings guards Allen Durham of the Bolts during a Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governors’ Cup game at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Reigning champion San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra collide against their respective foes at the start of the quarterfinals of Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governor’s Cup today at the Araneta Coliseum.

    The Beermen, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, will battle the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Road Warriors in the 4:15 p.m. game followed by the Gin Kings-Alaska Aces match at 7 p.m.

    After ending the elimination round with a 107-101 win against the Blackwater Elite on Sunday, the Beermen are expected to rely on returning import Elijah Millsap, June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot.

    San Miguel Beer is No. 2 with an 8-3 win-loss record.

    The No.7 Road Warriors, with 5-6 record, will be leaning on the prowess of import Henry Bill Walker, Center Paul Asi Taulava, Kevin Alas, Sean Anthony, Jonas Villanueva and Enrico Villanueva.

    “We are in a tough situation because we are facing San Miguel Beer in a quarterfinal match up with a twice-to-beat disadvantage. But as we always do, we are preparing really hard for San Miguel Beer. We just have to limit Fajardo, Millsap, Santos, Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter on their point productions by playing solid individual and team defense if we want to upset them,” NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez told The Manila Times via text message.

    The Fuel Masters will face the No. 1 Talk ‘N Text with twice-to-beat on Saturday in the other quarterfinals match. Last Wednesday, Phoenix Petroleum bagged the last quarterfinals berth by beating Rain or Shine, 104-95.

    Meanwhile, Ginebra coach Tim Cone believes that his former team Alaska remains dangerous despite its weak start this conference. The No. 3 Gin Kings hold a twice-to-beat advantage after finishing with an 8-3 record.

    “Of all the teams in the lower four, Alaska is the last team we would choose to play,” Cone said in a text message. “After a tough start, they have righted themselves nicely and they are playing their dynamic game again.”

    Cone will be depending on import Justin Brownlee, veteran Mark Caguioa, rookie Earl Scottie Thompson, Solomon Mercado, Japeth Aguilar, Dave Marcelo and LA Tenorio in their fight against the Aces.

    “We just have to make sure we don’t allow them to disrupt too much what we like to do. No doubt, we have the toughest road to the semifinals, but we like the challenge in front of us,” he added.

    Alaska, after a frustrating 2-5 win-loss start, bounced back with a four game-winning streak to finish the elimination round with a 6-5 win-loss record and reach the playoff round.

    “This is a great challenge for us,” said Compton. “Ginebra has earned the twice-to-beat advantage and we have to find a way to overcome that. The only way to do that is to win first our game tomorrow, we have to do everything possible.”

    The Aces are expected to be led by import LaDontae Henton, Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, Jayvee Casio, Chris Banchero, RJ Jazul, Kevin Racal and Dondon Hontiveros.

    “I think they are a good team and I think we are a good team. So I expect a great game for the PBA fans tomorrow. Hopefully, we can force another game on Sunday,” Compton added.

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