(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Blackwater
Henry Walker is expecting a big fightback from Meralco tonight when Blackwater tries to pull off a stunning upset in their knockout quarterfinals match in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Walker and the Elite forced the 7 p.m. contest for the right to meet the Star Hotshots in a best-of-five semifinal series after Allen Maliksi’s jumper allowed the eighth-seeded squad to beat the top-ranked Bolts, 92-91, two days earlier at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Though the prospect of becoming the fourth No. 8 team to beat the No. 1 in the quarters is knocking on Blackwater’s door, Walker sees Meralco regaining its old form.
“We just poked the bear, and if you’re from the country like I am, you gotta be ready what happens when the bear turns around,” the American reinforcement said.
“I know for sure, (Meralco) coach (Norman) Black, I have the utmost respect for him, I know he’s going to have his team ready to go. We better be ready or we’re gonna get whooped off the court,” added the former NBA cager.
Walker has been largely credited for Blackwater’s turnaround from a 0-3 start. The man described by Elite coach Leo Isaac as “Mr. Inspiration” dropped 19 of his 30 points in the fourth and had a hand in the game’s biggest play when he fed Maliksi for the go-ahead jumper with nine seconds remaining.
Maliksi, traded more than two weeks ago from Star, hopes to play a major role anew and set up an interesting semis duel opposite his former team.
That is something Meralco wants to prevent. The Bolts, who had the best record of the elims at 9-2, believe it play below the usual, and are eager to atone for that loss in the decider.
Allen Durham, favored to win a second straight Best Import award in the season-ending conference, has vowed to make his presence felt, something that was lacking a bit the last time.
“I gotta be more aggressive on offense. I gotta do more. I’ll pick it up on Thursday, and hopefuly come out with a win,” he said.
The Bolts also want to see a healthier Baser Amer after spraining his right ankle 39 seconds into the game. The sophomore playmaker returned in the second half, even hitting two crucial threes that gave his squad an 89-86 lead entering the final two minutes.
But a Flagrant Foul 1 on Jared Dillinger for hitting Roi Sumang set the stage for Blackwater to have the big breaks in the end.