The streaking Kia Carnival are keen on giving playing coach Manny Pacquiao a fitting sendoff as they go for their third straight win against fellow expansion team Blackwater Elite today in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at The Arena in San Juan.
Pacquiao is expected to suit up for Kia in their Petron Saturday Special game with Blackwater at 5 p.m. before hopping on a plane bound for Los Angeles minutes after to prepare for his May 2 super fight with Floyd Mayweather.
But before that, the ring icon would like to see his Carnival continue their winning ways after producing stunning victories over the Purefoods Star Hotshots and the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters.
Kia is currently in eighth place with a 3-4 record, after beating Purefoods, 95-84, last Feb. 18 and Talk ‘N Text, 106-103, last Wednesday. The Carnival also beat the Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beermen, 108-88, last Feb. 4.
“We have a good chance of making it to the next round,” said Kia’s assistant coach Chito Victolero. “The energy that coach Manny brings to the team is really crucial to the team, his presence.”
The Carnival are favored to topple the Elite in a game that will allow fans to watch free of charge in the general admission section of the 5,000-seat venue.
Kia also carries a psychological edge over Blackwater after winning 80-66 in their Philippine Cup encounter last October at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“Hopefully before (Pacquiao) leaves, mapabaunan namin sya ng panalo para naman magandang send-off kay coach Manny,” added Victolero, who will call the shots for Kia while Pacquiao shifts his attention on Mayweather.
The team will continue to rely 7-foot-4 import Peter John Ramos, who averages 32 points and 20.3 rebounds, with support coming from Mark, Yee, Leo Avenico, Reil Cervantes, JR Buensuceso, Kyle Pascual, LA Revilla and Hyram Bagatsing, who scored a career-best 21 points on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point territory against TNT.
Meanwhile, Blackwater has lost its last three games since a shock 80-77 win over San Miguel last Feb. 11. The Elite are tied with the Beermen for last place with a 1-5 record.
Blackwater is coming off a 89-82 defeat to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, but coach Leo Isaac is optimistic on his team’s chances against Kia. Import Marcus Douthit will continue to lead the team.