by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Stadium 29, Nonthaburi)
7 p.m. – Petrochimi vs Meralco
The Meralco Bolts aim to score another upset win and gain a spot in the final tonight when they face crack Iranian side Petrochimi in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup semifinals at Stadium 29 in Nonthaburi, Thailand.
Two days removed from barely making the semis by virtue of dethroning last year’s winner Al-Riyadi of Lebanon, the Bolts try to beat Petrochimi in the 6 p.m. local time (7 p.m. PH time) match and arrange a title showdown with either Japan’s Alvark Tokyo or South Korea’s SK Knights.
Meralco shook off two disappointing defeats to start the tournament by stunning Al-Riyadi, 96-63, Saturday evening to claim second place in Group B over the Lebanese squad and host team Mono Vampire.
The three teams finished with identical 1-2 slates but Meralco advanced due to a superior quotient. The Bolts fell to Mono Vampire (100-92) and Alvark (84-73) in the first two games.
Coach Norman Black and the Bolts made it to the last four despite missing the services of Fil-Americans Chris Newsome and Cliff Hodge, who were ruled ineligible by FIBA Executive Director for Asia Hagop Khajirian for failing to secure a Philippine passport before the age of 16.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Al Panlilio, who personally talked to Khajirian during Friday’s match against Alvark, was given assurance that FIBA will look at the possibility of changing the rules for the annual club competition participated by a PBA squad for the first time.
The Bolts got steady contributions from imports Diamond Stone and Allen Durham and locals Garvo Lanete, KG Canaleta, Anjo Caram and Simon Atkins to produce a lopsided win over Al-Riyadi.
Stone stepped up for Meralco with 20 points while Lanete and Canaleta produced 20 and 18 points for their best production since the start of the tournament.
But Meralco knows that Saturday’s performance won’t be enough to topple Petrochimi, which won all three games in a tough Group A bracket composed of SK Knights, Taiwan’s Pauian Archiland and China’s Liaoning Flying Leopards.
Expected to give Meralco problems are Saijad Mashayekhim, Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi, Arsalan Kazemi and Rouzbeh Arghavan.