Game Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m – Alaska vs Meralco
7 p.m. – Globalport vs Purefoods
Mired in the muck with back-to-back losses, Grand Slam champion Purefoods Star has to start its arduous climb sometime before its glitter fades, and Globalport could find itself reduced to a stepping stone if it allows the Hotshots to regain their bearing at the expense of the Batang Pier.
Gilas Pilipinas stalwart Marc Pingris will be back rejuvenated after missing the Hotshots’ first two games while shooter James Yap (hamstring) could make an unscheduled appearance when they face Globalport today in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Gametime is at 7:15 after the 4:15 clash for solo leadership between the front-running Alaska Aces and Meralco Bolts, a double Halloween treat for PBA fans. Purefoods, formerly San Mig Super Coffee, is on a mission to win its fifth straight title from 2012, a feat that will put it within one championship of matching the long-standing record of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers back in the 70s.
Injuries became a major obstacle on the road however.
First it was Pingris who needed to rest his bruised foot arc. Then forward Ian Sangalang suffered a partial tear on his knee ligament against Alaska. Yap followed the two on the bench after experiencing pain on his calf muscle which turned out to be hamstring pull after an MRI exam.
Sangalang could be out for the conference. But Pingris is back and the Hotshots are expected to recover lost ground quickly once Yap rejoins the team.
Globalport, whose coach Pido Jarencio reportedly got a reprieve following their victory over Barako Bull, could do well and pounce on the Hotshots while they are still in the process of regrouping and Pingris is not yet at full strength.
Former Air21 coach Franz Pumaren, according to the social media, was close to signing up with the Batang Pier as replacement for Jarencio. But the deal was supposedly put on hold after Globalport came back following an agonizing loss to NLEX where they led by nine points with five minutes remaining prior to collapsing.
Mikee Romero, the Globalport team owner, hasn’t gone on the record that Jarencio’s job is safe but he did say he was ready to give the fiery mentor all the chances he needs to prove himself.
How well Purefoods will deal with Globalport’s three-man guard rotation of Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo and No. 1 draft pick Stanley Pringle will define the Hotshots’ comebacking resolve.
Meanwhile, Norman Black, the Meralco coach, knows the calibre of the team they are up against.
“Alaska has shown its strength by taking out those two teams so this will be our biggest challenge so far this conference,” said Black. “The keys are we have to do a good job against their pressure defense and we must control our defensive rebounds.”
Black also singled out one Aces player to be the focus of the Bolts’ attention.
“Keeping Calvin [Abueva] off the offensive boards will be important,” said Black.
The Tropang Texters took their eyes off the former San Sebastian dervish on Wednesday and paid a terrible price.
Abueva torched the Texters with 22 points and hung 26 rebounds around their necks. Worse, he burned rubber in a dying-second fast break play and beat the buzzer with a floater from up close to lift Alaska past TNT, 100-98, after falling behind by 18 points.
The Bolts went through a wringer in their first two games, needing two overtimes to put away Barako Bull and a third extra period to subdue newcomer Blackwater, 83-75. Meralco can’t ill afford any form of power shortage against an efficiently organized team like Aces, now run like a machine by coach Alex Compton.
The winner will break away from a three-way tie with San Miguel Beer.
Bannering Alaska aside from Abueva are Sonny Thoss, Cyrus Baguio, Dondon Hontiveros and Jvee Casio, all responding positively to a less structured offensive system that has allowed them to improvise every one and then.
For Meralco, on the other hand, will be Cliff Hodge, Sean Anthony, Mike Cortez, Jared Dillinger, Gary David, Rey Guevarra and the veteran Danny Ildefonso.