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PBA: Shorthanded TnT battles Barako

by Waylon Galvez

Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:15 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Barako Bull
7:30 p.m. – Petron Blaze vs Meralco

Without four Gilas Pilipinas heroes at his disposal, Talk ’N Text coach Norman Black may need a high level of performance from his other mainstays when they collide with Barako Bull today in the PBA Governors’ Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, Larry Fonacier and Ranidel de Ocampo, who all starred in the country’s campaign in the Asian tournament, have been given time off by TNT’s coaching staff.

“The players will miss at least three games as the management has given them time off to let them recover from the grind of the FIBA Asia competition,” said Black yesterday. “We will just do the best we can with our remaining players.”

“Other guys will have to step up to support Tony,” Black said, adding “things will be a little difficult because of the sacrifice we made for the Philippine team, but at least the country is headed to Spain.”

Black, of course, was referring to American import Tony Mitchell, who played for TNT during the semifinal round of the previous Commissioner’s Cup against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. Backing him up are Ryan Reyes, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Ali Peek and new recruit Sean Anthony.

TNT plays Barako Bull at 5:15 p.m., before Gee Abanilla makes his coaching debut for Petron Blaze in its 7:30 p.m. match against Meralco.

The winners will join opening day winners Globalport and Rain or Shine which scored similar thrilling wins.

The Batang Pier got 34 points and 11 rebounds from import Markeith Cummings in a 101-94 win opposite the Air21 Express, while the Elasto Painters scored a come-from-behind 79-75 victory over the SanMig Mixers as import returnee Arizona Reid collected 28 points and 20 boards.

Castro, Alapag and De Ocampo played key roles in the Philippines’ 86-79 victory against South Korea in the semifinals, which clinched for Gilas Pilipinas an outright berth to next year’s World Championship in Spain.

As for Barako, the team has made a few additions during the break, getting back Dorian Peña in a trade with Petron for Doug Kramer, while adding Elmer Espiritu, Ronjay Buenafe and Keith Jensen for coach Bong Ramos and consultant Rajko Toroman.

This marks Abanilla’s return to the pro league after being plucked out from La Salle in the UAAP to replace Olsen Racela.

Racela has been shipped to San Mig as one of the assistant coaches of Tim Cone.

“Right now I think we’re pretty much okay, we had a good preparation. One thing that is positive for the team is that the roles are more defined for the players and the coaches,” said Abanilla, who will have a deep coaching staff with American Todd Purvis, former coach of the Indonesia Warriors in the ABL, as consultant, Biboy Ravanes, Peter Martin, Leo Isaac and Koy Banal.

Abanilla will have as import Elijah Millsap, younger brother of Utah Jazz star Paul Millsap, while the leading the locals are Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz and Denok Miranda.

Unlike his Gilas teammates, Jun Mar Fajardo is expected to see action for Petron.

For Meralco, coach Ryan Gregorio sad they’re all ready to rumble against the best in the league, saying: “All systems go for us. (Import) Mario West arrived this morning and he is ready to compete. He said that he is in good basketball shape.”

“Defense will be our main weapon this conference. With West on-board, our defensive lock-down mentality must be enforced specially against a strong Petron team. We must be sharp on defense, quick on our feet in transition to score easy baskets and accurate on our perimeter game,” added Gregorio who is excited to have former TNT star Jared Dillinger on his team.

(from TNT) in a three-way team trade.

“Defense will be our main weapon this conference. With West on-board, our defensive lock-down mentality must be enforced specially against a strong Petron team. We must be sharp on defense, quick on our feet in transition to score easy baskets and accurate on our perimeter game,” he said.

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