by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Philippine Arena, Bulacan)
3 p.m. – NLEX vs GlobalPort
5:15 p.m. – Ginebra vs Magnolia
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel returns to familiar surroundings today by opening its PBA Philippine Cup campaign against rival Magnolia Hotshots in the league’s annual Christmas Day doubleheader at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Ginebra will put aside the memory of repeating as Governors’ Cup champion in front of more than 54,000 fans almost two months ago and start the season on a high note against a Magnolia team coming off a midweek victory. Tipoff is set at 5:15 p.m.
Their match is set after rookie Kiefer Ravena and NLEX shoots for a second straight win against GlobalPort at 3 p.m.
Ginebra is playing in its third straight game on Christmas, all against its Manila Clasico foe, but won’t be fielding three key players due to injuries.
Joe Devance underwent offseason surgery on his foot, Art dela Cruz once again ruptured his Achilles two weeks earlier and Sol Mercado is still recovering from hurting his ankle during the Governors’ Cup Finals.
“Without them, we’ll be scrambling a bit in determining our roles,” said Cone. “I like what I’ve seen in practice, but let’s see if that translates into Christmas Day and the succeeding games.”
Governors’ Cup Finals Most Valuable Player LA Tenorio, who came off shoulder surgery, leads the Ginebra attack alongside Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter and Scottie Thompson.
Magnolia began the season with a 108-95 victory, powered by an explosive performance by guard Paul Lee, who fired 30 points and hopes to repeat that showing again.
But the Hotshots are likely to face Ginebra minus key players to injuries, namely Jio Jalalon, Rafi Reavis and possibly Marc Pingris. The three were in street clothes when their team beat the Aces at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is banking on Rome dela Rosa, Justin Melton, Bambam Gamalinda, PJ Simon and rookie Robbie Herndon to repeat their solid outings in hopes of spoiling Ginebra’s holiday mood.
“I know they will step up in every single game, kung kailangan. Yun nga ang nangyari,” Victolero said.
Meanwhile, Ravena is out to show that his PBA debut was no fluke after contributing 18 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds in Wednesday’s 119-115 win over Kia.
Ravena once again test his pro-readiness against the Batang Pier, who will suit up minus injured star Terrence Romeo but will be led by fellow guard Stanley Pringle.