The Star Hotshots and the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings start their best-of-seven semifinals series as they clash 7 p.m. tonight in Game 1 of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Rookie Hotshots coach Chito Victolero, who replaced former coach Jason Webb last year during off season, expects a tough series against the Gin Kings, who overturned Alaska’s twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round.
“We expect a very hard and exciting series, it will be a very tough series,” said Victolero. “Ginebra is a champion team. They have the experience and the chemistry that’s why they will be very hard to beat,” he added.
The Hotshots have won their last six games in impressive fashion, beating their last six opponents by an average of 27.8 points including a sweep of the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters in their best-of-three quarterfinals series.
“We will prepare hard for the series. I know my players will be mentally and physically ready. No one expects us to be here but the team works hard for this so we will battle and fight to meet our next goal. I told them we need to be composed and control our emotions for the whole series,” Victolero said.
Paul Lee is one of the key players for the Hotshots the reason why they are on a roll and in the semifinals for the first time since last season’s Governors’ Cup.
Lee, who was acquired by the franchise in a one-on-one deal with Rain or Shine for James Yap, averaged 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 11 games in the elimination rtound.
His arrival gave Victolero the stability at the backcourt and is blending well with new teammates Allein Maliksi, Mark Barroca and Marc Pingris.
Ginebra, on the other hand, is coming off two impressive wins versus the Aces to negate the latter’s twice-to-beat advantage. The No. 7 seed Gin Kings beat Alaska two in a row, 85-81 and 108-97, to enter the semis of the Philippines Cup for the first time since 2012-2013 season.
Like Victolero, Cone braces for a tough series against the Hotshots.
“We know Purefoods (Star Hotshots) pretty well. We know most of their players and we played with quality so they know our style and the way we play,” said Cone. “So it should be a tough series. They are playing great basketball.”
Cone said Joe Devance is doubtful in the best-of-seven semifinal series after hurting his ankle last Sunday against Alaska.
“I’m hoping Joe Devance will comeback in the series and knowing Joe he’ll be back soon,” Cone ended.