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PBA PH Cup quarterfinals start today

Cliff Hodge and Mark Isip

Games Today (Cuneta Astrodome)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs Alaska
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Purefoods

Manila, Philippines – Let the playoffs begin. Or better yet, let the duel to the death commence.

Twice-to-beat teams No. 3 Alaska and No. 6 Meralco seek to oust matchup opponents today when the two-phase quarterfinals of the PBA Philippine Cup start at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The Aces take on the No. 10 NLEX Road Warriors at 4:15 p.m., while the Bolts meet the No. 7 Purefoods Star Hotshots at 7 p.m.

Alaska watched Tuesday as San Miguel Beer crushed Blackwater to gain an outright semifinal berth, dashing hopes of the Aces and the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in tying up the Beermen.

Rain or Shine had earlier clinched the first of two automatic Final Four slots.

Meralco, on the other hand, turned back Globalport in the battle for the fourth and last twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs, 82-70, to secure the sixth spot behind Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

Purefoods, which routed No. 9 Barako Bull, 99-83, in the triple-header curtainraiser, actually wound up sharing fifth and sixth spots with Barangay Ginebra and Meralco on 6-5 slates but was left out in the cold due to an inferior quotient, a fact Hotshots coach Tim Cone raged at.

“I’ve been very vocal in the past that I think it’s a great disservice to teams getting knocked out because of quotients,” he said. “I think it’s a bad rule, a bad setup. I think it’s a really unfair setup. The whole idea is to reward the best teams but you can’t determine it just by quotient. Quotient doesn’t decide who’s better, who’s worst. I hope in the future they think about it. I don’t know what we’re rushing for.”

The first meeting between Alaska and NLEX was a war, with the Aces needing a rumbling fourth quarter to subdue the Road Warriors, 90-84.

Five Alaska players were in double figures, with Dondon Hontiveros scoring 21, including five 3-point shots, while Calvin Abueva added 16 with 19 rebounds, dominating under the boards even NLEX’s Asi Taulava, who was held to 10 points and four rebounds.

Jayvee Casio, Cyrus Baguio and Sonny Thoss each had 11 points that day.

Purefoods also holds a 1-0 edge over Meralco, having narrowly defeated the Bolts, 77-74, in Binan, Laguna in the eliminations.

PJ Simon took over the offensive cudgels by firing 18 points while Mark Barroca 16 with three triples and the much-improved Yousef Taha 14 with nine rebounds.

The Hotshots took the fourth quarter, 25-15, to overcome a 59-52 deficit at the end of the third period.

Meralco was bogged down by its 6-of-30 shooting from 3-point range and 28 of 85 field goal overall.

Four other playoff qualifiers make their appearance next, with No. 5 Barangay Ginebra facing No. 8 Globalport and No. 4 Talk ‘N Text meeting No. 9 Barako Bull. TNT and Ginebra need only to win once to move on, while Globalport and Barako Bull, like Purefoods and NLEX, will have to do so twice.

Winners then tangle in the crossover phase of the quarters to determine which teams will join SMB and Rain or Shine in the best-of-7 semis.