By TITO S. TALAO
Games Today (Smart Araneta)
5:45 p.m. – Alaska vs Meralco
8 p.m. – Petron vs Globalport
Manila, Philippines – The painstaking process of breaking up a four-way tie in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup to decide which team gets booted out of the forthcoming playoffs begins today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
And although 10th running Air21 (3-9), by virtue of its life-extending victory over defending champion Talk ‘N Text Wednesday, still has an outside shot at making the last flight to the knockout quarterfinals, the odds are strong that one of these 4-7 win-loss ballclubs – Meralco, Alaska, Globalport and San Mig Coffee – will be keeping it company in the cold.
Previously, it was a five-way logjam. But Barako Bull found a way back from a double digit deficit to reel in Petron Blaze, which was without June Mar Fajardo, and move up to 5th place with a 92-88 victory two nights ago.
The impasse between Alaska and Meralco gets broken up first at 5:45 p.m. before Globalport follows suit when it takes on slumping Petron at 8 p.m.
Alaska won their first meeting, 91-82, on Dec. 18 as three Aces, Dondon Hontiveros (24), Cyrus Baguio (23) and Sonny Thoss (20), put up big numbers. Hontiveros, who hit two 3-pointers that night, joined Allan Caidic, Ronnie Magsanoc, Al Solis and Jimmy Alapag with 900 career triples.
Thoss, especially, had his way around against forward Reynel Hugnatan and center Rabeh Al-Hussaini on 9 of 15 shooting with 7 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 40 minutes.
Things, however, may be a little different this time after Meralco acquired veteran free agent and two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso, who debuted for the Bolts in remarkable fashion against Air21, getting named Accel PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for his effort.
The Aces meet Globalport on Jan. 12 and wind up the elimination round against Barako Bull on Jan. 19. The Bolts, on the other hand, have a tougher closing schedule, with Rain or Shine in the calendar on Jan. 15 and Petron on Jan. 18.
In the second game, the Boosters hope to check a dangerous skid that has dropped them into a 2nd place tie with idle Rain or Shine.
They own Globalport in their first encounter, 97-87, last Nov. 20 after Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz each had 18 points and Arwind Santos 16. But without Fajardo to man the paint, clear the boards and unlock double-teaming defenses, Petron faces rough sailing tonight.