by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Cuneta Astrodome)
6:30 p.m. – Meralco vs Alaska
(Alaska leads series 2-1)
Alaska is bracing for another heart-pounding encounter with Meralco as the Aces try to book a return trip to the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals tonight in Game 4 of their best-of-five semifinal series at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Aces, who won Game 3 two nights ago in a whirlwind finish for a 2-1 lead in the series, are looking to weather off another determined effort by the Bolts in the 6:30 p.m. affair and secure their first finals appearance since the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
But the dire situation could benefit Meralco, which is set to play a seventh do-or-die match in a month.
Aces coach Alex Compton is also treating the match as if they are the ones who are behind.
“Anybody can win,” Compton said. “I’m sure (Meralco’s) gonna look at it as a knockout. We’re gonna look at it as a knockout and we’re gonna expect another fantastic basketball game.”
Meralco counterpart Norman Black will look to see his boys come out with the same fire that enabled them to reach this far after a 1-6 start in the tournament and force a deciding fifth game.
Game 5, if necessary, is set Monday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
“It’s do-or-die so we’ll just go out and play our best and hopefully win the game,” said Black. “I think we’re just in that situation right now because Alaska outplayed us and they won the game. Backs up against the wall again, we’ll see how we respond to it.”
Focus will again be on the mano-a-mano battle between imports Mike Harris of Alaska and Allen Durham of Meralco.
It was Harris who made the clutch baskets in the final two minutes of Game 3 that gave the Aces a 104-102 victory.
Despite missing a point blank shot before the buzzer, Durham had been matching Harris with his dominant plays in the post.
“He’s a tough guy. He’s strong, he doesn’t stop working. He’s a phenomenal player and that’s what you want to play against,” said Harris.
Durham, on the other hand, also has nothing but respect for Harris, who incidentally stands as his biggest threat in his bid for a third consecutive Best Import award.
“He knows how to use his body, he’s strong,” said Durham. “He has a good basketball IQ and that’s an asset in itself. Definitely a battle.”