by Jonas Terrado
Games Sunday (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs NorthPort
6:45 p.m. – Phoenix Pulse vs Alaska
Phoenix Pulse and Rain or Shine try to capitalize on their twice-to-beat bonus and secure semifinal berths against separate rivals in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Top seed Phoenix takes on Alaska, the final team that made the quarters, at 6:45 p.m. after No. 2 Rain or Shine aims to beat seventh-ranked NorthPort in the 4:30 p.m. opener.
Both teams need just one win to reach the semis, though expecting things to be easier said than done.
No one is more determined to survive the quarters than Phoenix, which hopes to overcome blowing a similar quarterfinal incentive against Meralco in last season’s Governors’ Cup.
The Fuel Masters finished second in the standings but were beaten twice by the Bolts.
Coach Louie Alas steered Phoenix to the league’s best record at 9-2 behind Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva, Jason Perkins and Justin Chua.
But Phoenix will have to face a team that plays a similar defensive-oriented style in Alaska, which barely made it to the quarters.
Alaska beat NLEX, 88-80, on Friday in a playoff at the same venue to earn the right to face Phoenix.
Veteran center Sonny Thoss, Carl Bryan Cruz, Jvee Casio, Simon Enciso and Jeron Teng will be hard-pressed to give the Aces another stirring performance and push the Fuel Masters to the limit.
Alas, assistant coach Topex Robinson, Abueva and Jaypee Mendoza will face their former team for the first time in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine will not show any goodwill gesture against NorthPort this time as it aims to make the semis via a shorter route.
It would be recalled that the Elasto Painters gave the Batang Pier pansit as appreciation for helping them clinch the twice-to-beat advantage.
Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia hopes to lean on James Yap, Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood and Maverick Ahanmisi to see off a NorthPort side that made it to the quarters with three straight wins.
Stanley Pringle and rookie Robert Bolick may do the heavy lifting with Sean Anthony questionable because of a groin injury.
A NorthPort source said Anthony’s availability will depend on whether the pain subsides in time for the match.