(Alonte Sports Arena, Biñan)
6:30 p.m. – Meralco vs Star
The Meralco Bolts expect the Star Hotshots to play like a different animal as they begin their best-of-five semifinal series in the PBA Governors’ Cup today at the Alonte Sports Arena in Biñan, Laguna.
After surviving the underdog Blackwater Elite in the quarterfinals, the Bolts see the road to the championship get even harder with the Hotshots coming off an unexpected trip to the semifinals despite a seesaw campaign in the eliminations.
Meralco still carries the psychological edge, having beaten Star 96-90 last month in nearby Sta. Rosa, Laguna, but Bolts import Allen Durham will be up for a huge task defending Hotshots counterpart Kristofer Acox.
Acox has yet to play for Star when the two teams last met, but the Icelandic center has proven to be the perfect fit.
His presence in the middle and key baskets in the fourth quarter propelled the Hotshots to finishing off the NLEX Road Warriors in their quarters match Tuesday.
Durhan has vowed to play in the 6:30 p.m. match despite spraining his right ankle in Thursday’s 104-96 win over Blackwater at the Smart Araneta Coliseum as he hopes to hold the fort for the Bolts.
“(Acox is) a hardworker. He rebounds well, plays tough defense and he run the break a lot, so he’s a little different from what (Blackwater import Henry) Walker was doing and you know he’s playing good with the locals and Star is playing good now,” Durham said.
Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger, Ranidel de Ocampo and Garvo Lanete gave Durham plenty of help in beating the Elite, which coach Norman Black hopes would continue. Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge and Kelly Nabong are also expected to play key roles in the series.
Countering them are the Hotshots’ main weapons Mark Barroca, Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Marc Pingris and Jio Jalalon.
“The Star team has a lot of players who can score, locals who can contribute a lot,” said Black. “I’m not saying the import’s not good because he contributes a lot in their games but it will be a different animal for us to defend.”
The motivating factor carrying Star heading into the series is to finally secure a finals berth after short in the semifinals of this season’s first two conferences. The Hotshots blew a 2-0 lead in a seven-game loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Cup and absorbed a 3-1 defeat to the San Miguel Beermen in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Another opportunity para sa amin, I hope makalusot kami,” said Lee. “Dalawang semis na kami. Yun yung aim namin ngayon, makalusot kami ng semifinals. Pagdating ng finals, bahala na.”