By JONAS TERRADO
(Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
6:30 p.m. – Magnolia vs NLEX
(Series tied 2-2)
The Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and NLEX Road Warriors dispute the 3-2 lead and a foot closer to the finals tonight as their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series shifts to the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Magnolia and NLEX break their deadlock at 6:30 p.m. located several kilometers east of the metropolis, with Road Warriors guard Kevin Alas expecting a tactical battle that can be compared to a popular board game.
“Kumbaga, chess match na ‘to,” Alas said after NLEX tied the series Friday with a 91-79 victory at the Mall of Asia Arena.
NLEX avoided falling to a 3-1 hole with almost every player contributing to the cause, particularly Alas, Kiefer Ravena, JR Quinahan, Larry Fonacier, Cyrus Baguio and Raul Soyud.
Coach Yeng Guiao would like to see the same scattered effort from his team, believing that such consistency can help the Road Warriors wore down an experienced Hotshots team dealing with injuries to key players.
“The experience that you gain playing the semifinals for as many times as they’ve had is really valuable.
Napakaimportante ng experience na yun na wala kami as a team,” said Guiao. “So just to tie the series at 2-2, to us, that’s really a moral victory.
“Makatabla lang kami sa 2-2, ibig sabihin may sixth game pa ‘to. Makarating ng Game 6, Game 7, kahit anu man ang resulta masaya na kami,” added the fiery mentor, who is eyeing to make NLEX the fourth team he has steered to the finals.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, however, refuses to dwell on the team’s injury bug, namely the season-ending ACL surgery of team captain Marc Pingris, Justin Melton dealing with a hamstring problem and Mark Barroca playing despite an ankle sprain.
Victolero has called on his bench to step and provide the needed support for main guns Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Jio Jalalon and Barroca.
“We need to find ways pa or we need another big pa siguro na mag-step up like Aldrech (Ramos), Kyle (Pascual) and Rodney (Brondial), kahit papaano may makuha kami on both ends, defense and offense,” said Victolero.
“Yung bench namin need to step up pa kasi ngayon talo kami sa bench scoring e,” he added. “Medyo mahaba-haba na yung series, kailangan yung bench kahit papaano nakakacontribute. Sabi ko nga sa kanila, it’s down to a best-of-three series, we need to play together and stay together.”