by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Cagayan de Oro City)
5 p.m. – Phoenix vs Ginebra
Phoenix puts the solo lead on the line today when it battles a still depleted Barangay Ginebra San Miguel side in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Xavier University gym in Cagayan de Oro City.
After winning five of their first six games to wrest the top spot in the season-ending conference, the Fuel Masters try to live up to that reputation in the Petron Saturday Special meeting with the Kings set at 5 p.m.
The Fuel Masters have been making a strong impression with import Eugene Phelps and new acquisition Calvin Abueva being credited for the best start since the franchise began joining the PBA in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
But coach Louie Alas said his team should not feel a sense of comfort just yet, adding that Phoenix will have to pile up more wins in order to secure a twice-to-beat given to the top four teams in the quarterfinals.
While Abueva’s numbers are solid in nature – averaging 13.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 blocks – his impact has been evident since joining Phoenix in a trade from Alaska last August.
Phelps, meanwhile, has made a strong case for the Best Import award with 30.3 points, 17.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.2 blocks.
Alas also hopes for more inconsistency from his other players, namely Matthew Wright, LA Revilla and rookie Jason Perkins in order to beat a Ginebra squad that remains a threat despite the absence of key players to injuries.
Coach Tim Cone said Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Sol Mercado will still be out, leaving Ginebra with another shorthanded roster.
Despite that, the Kings are slightly favored to improve their 4-1 record behind import Justin Brownlee, Scottie Thompson, LA Tenorio and Aljon Mariano, who has provided vital contributions in the absence of the team’s top stars.
Mariano scored a career-high 20 points while grabbing seven rebounds in Ginebra’s 110-102 victory over San Miguel Beer last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ginebra is also looking for steady contributions from Kevin Ferrer, Jeff Chan, Prince Caperal and Joe Devance, far from 100 percent due to a recurring knee problem.