Defending champion San Miguel Beer and Rain or Shine are both aiming for a share of the top spot now occupied by Blackwater when they face their respective foes today in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.
The Beermen, coming off a 96-88 win over the Star Hotshots in the opener, will battle the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the 7 p.m. match after the 4:15 p.m. opening game between the Mahindra Floodbuster and the Elasto Painters.
A second victory by the Beermen and the Elasto Painters will allow them to share the lead with the Blackwater Elite that is holding a 2-0 win-loss record.
Besides three-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Gabby Espinas, Yancy De Ocampo, Jay-R Reyes, Keith Agovida, playmaker Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Ryan Roose Garcia, and rookie Arnold Van Opstal are also expected to step up for the Beermen.
“It is going to be tough because they have good players like the 6’10 June Mar Fajardo but we prepared very hard,” Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia told The Manila Times in a phone interview. “So far we have defensive plan how to neutralize their players. I hope we beat them.”
Gilas rookie Matthew Wright, who is known as a prolific scorer, is expected to get in the way of the Beermen. Wright did not see action last week because of mild food poisoning. His team lost to the Elite 87-94, in that game.
“Wright is going to play and I believe he’ll be a big help. He will be an additional weapon to us.”
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine, under new coach Carlos “Caloy” Garcia, is upbeat to score another win when it meets Mahindra after its opening game victory against Talk ‘N Text last week.
“We cannot take Mahindra lightly because they have lots of new players trying to adopt to the system. We have to take advantage of them while they are still trying to adopt to their system,” said Garcia via text message.
Rain or Shine will be relying on Gabe Norwood, Raymond Almazan, Ronnie Matias, Anthony Jay Washington, Maverick Ahanmisi, rookie Mike Tolomia, Jericho Cruz, Beau Belga and Jireh Ibanez against Mahindra.
“They have talented scorers and once you give them the confidence it would be hard to stop. They made adjustments for sure after losing their first game.”
The Elasto Painters beat the Talk ‘N Tropang Texters, 101-87, last Wednesday for their first win this season.
Mahindra, on the other hand, is aiming to bounce back from a 75-97 loss to GlobalPort.
“What each other can do is familiarize themselves with our offensive sets and philosophy,” said Mahindra assistant coach Chris Gavina.
Mahindra will lean on Alex Mallari, Jason Deutchmann, Mike DiGregorio, LA Revilla, Mark Yee, Jason Ballesteros, Gary David and Rey Guevarra against TNT.
“We’re lacking cohesion right now and I’m still searching for the group of players I can rely on to play as a group within the frame work of our brand of basketball. We need to address our lack of defensive fortitude and toughness and our willingness to compete in order to overcome an extremely talent-laden Rain or Shine team,” Gavina added.