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PBA: Elite eye QF berth

by Jonas Terrado

Games Today (Cuneta Astrodome)
4:30 p.m. – NLEX vs Phoenix
7 p.m. – Blackwater vs Magnolia

Blackwater hopes to take the next step in its unexpected rise into a contender in the PBA Governors’ Cup when it seeks a quarterfinals berth against Magnolia tonight at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

The Elite, who have won six of their first seven games mostly through come-from-behind fashion, look to pass another acid test in the Hotshots at 7 p.m. and forge a tie with defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel for the lead.

A victory will not only carry Blackwater into the quarterfinals for only the third time since joining the PBA in 2014, but boost its chances of claiming the twice-to-beat advantage given to the top four teams at the end of the eliminations.

Phoenix tries to redeem itself from an out-of-town defeat to Ginebra more than a week ago and resume its own bid for a quarterfinal bonus against NLEX in the opener set 4:30 p.m.

The Fuel Masters absorbed a 101-99 loss to Ginebra last Sept. 29 in Cagayan de Oro City and fell to 5-2.

Still, coach Louie Alas’ wards remain in contention to secure a top four finish, but will have to hurdle a dangerous Road Warriors side eager to stay in the middle of the pack and improve their 4-3 slate.

Blackwater’s surge continued last week after winning their two matches against slumping teams Meralco and Rain or Shine behind contrasting results.

Paul Zamar’s three propelled Blackwater to a 94-91 win over Meralco after trailing by 10 early in the fourth quarter, then had to survive Rain or Shine’s repeated rallies in the fourth for a 99-93 triumph last Sunday in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Consistency is what Elite coach Bong Ramos is hoping with Zamar, Mike DiGregorio, Mac Belo and Allein Maliksi stepping up to complement import Henry Walker.

But Ramos would want to see center Poy Erram get back to his old form after missing two games due to a viral infection. Erram saw limited action against Rain or Shine last Sunday.