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PBA: Alaska vs Meralco

Ginebra's Greg Slaughter against GlobalPort Yancy DeOcampo during PBA action at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Rain or Shine awaits KO winner in semis

Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5 p.m. – Alaska vs Meralco

Game Tuesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Ginebra

Manila, Philippines – After fielding questions about Meralco’s breakthrough playoff victory against Purefoods Star, Bolts mentor Norman Black quickly turned his attention to their next opponent, reminding everyone that it’s going to be even tougher when they play in a knockout game.

After all, Meralco’s next game is against a team that dealt the Bolts their worst beating this conference, and the second worst defeat since the team joined the PBA in 2010.

The sixth-seeded Meralco battles anew the fourth-ranked Alaska with the winner moving to the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“They’re a tough team to beat, we lost to them by 41,” said Black, whose team suffered a nightmarish 105-64 blowout to Alaska on Halloween in a battle of then unbeaten teams in the PBA.

The two teams arranged a knockout match after dispatching their respective opponents in the first phase of the quarterfinals last Thursday at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Armed with twice-to-beat incentives, the Aces downed the NLEX Road Warriors (82-78) while the Bolts stunned the four-time champion Hotshots (77-65) for the first time after a 0-4 record in the playoffs.

The winner of the do-or-die game between Alaska and Meralco will advance to the seven-game series against outright semifinalist Rain or Shine starting Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Rain or Shine and San Miguel Beer earned automatic semifinals berths for finishing with the two best records (9-2) after the single elimination round.

SMB will face the winner of the other quarterfinal sudden-death match between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Talk ’N Text scheduled Tuesday also at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The twice-to-beat Kings and Tropang Texters ousted Globalport Batang Pier (95-78) and Barako Bull Energy Drink (105-76), respectively.

During their lone encounter, the Aces converted 41-of-71 (58%) from the field including 10-of-21 (48%) from three-point area, while the Bolts shot just 23-of-71 (32%t) of its shots.

Alaska’s winning margin was the second highest for the team since a convincing 119-71 victory against Tanduay Rhum in their battle for third place during the 2001 Commissioner’s Cup.

As for Meralco, it was the team’s second worst loss in franchise history after losing to Rain or Shine (95-139) during the 2012 Philippine Cup.

Aside from that, the Aces dominated almost every aspect of the game, scoring 23 points from turnovers as compared to the Bolts’ six, a 48-28 advantage on points in the paint, and a 78-31 difference on points off the bench.

Vic Manuel and Dondon Hontiveros led Alaska in that game as they came off the bench with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

But this time, it’s not just Manuel and Hontiveros that Black worries. Instead, it will be Alaska’s loaded roster led by do-it-all forward Calvin Abueva, who leads the team in almost all statistical categories.

The 6-foot-2 Abueva averages 16.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals this conference. Alaska also has JVee Casio, Sonny Thoss, Eric Menk, Tony dela Cruz, Cyrus Baguio, RJ Jazul and rookie Chris Banchero.

“Well… this is it. It was a nice win over Purefoods but the only thing that matters now is winning versus Alaska and advancing to the semifinals. It will be a tough task but that is the goal,” said Black.

“We must keep them off the offensive boards and it’s important that we break their full court defensive pressure,” added Black.

Meralco will rely on mainstays led by Cliff Hodge, the leader in points (13.25) and rebounds (9.92), Gilas Pilipinas members Jared Dillinger and Gary David, as well as Sean Anthony, John Wilson, Mike Cortez and Reynel Hugnatan.