MANILA, Philippines - Petron Blaze and Rain or Shine look forward to an early Christmas celebration as they go for the clinchers against Meralco and Barangay Ginebra, respectively, today in the quarterfinal round of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.
Coaches Ato Agustin of Petron and Yeng Guiao of Rain or Shine said making the semifinals would be the best Christmas gift they could give to themselves.
“It would be a nice Christmas gift if we can make the semis by tomorrow (today). But we have to play our best basketball to beat Ginebra. They’re more dangerous with their backs against the wall,” said Guiao.
“In a short series, a 1-0 lead is really a big advantage. We just have to make it sure that we don’t lose our focus. I’m pretty sure that Meralco and coach Ryan (Gregorio) will come up with adjustments,” said Agustin.
The Elasto Painters seek a semis duel with the Powerade Tigers while the Boosters are out to arrange a Final Four confrontation with the Talk n Text Tropang Texters.
The Bolts and the Kings, however, are expected to come out strong and force a sudden death on Friday, also at the Antipolo venue.
Regardless whether the quarterfinals end today or Friday, the best-of-seven semifinals will start Jan. 4.
Somehow, Powerade’s upset of top seed B-Meg inspires Meralco and Ginebra.
“The victory of the eighth seed defeating the first seed inspires us to believe that it can be done. With our back against the wall and fighting for survival against the mighty Petron Boosters, I can’t help but to challenge our players and say ‘why not us,’” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio.
“We believe that for as long as they have not won two times, we still have a chance,” Gregorio added.
But it won’t be easy.
“We can’t let Rain or Shine shooting 40 free throws, and we have to stay mentally focused the whole game,” said Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen.
Cashing heavily from the foul line, the Elasto Painters came from behind to pull off a 112-105 overtime win over the Kings Friday.
JR Quinahan and Paul Lee made 16 points each in the fourth quarter and in OT as the Elasto Painters stopped the Kings’ five-game romp.
Guiao is confident they can repeat especially if they’re able to contain the Ginebra backcourt led by Mark Caguioa and Mike Cortez.
“Our main concern is containing their guards. Our offense can take care of itself,” said Guiao.
Up against the Petron team with its own scoring machines in Arwind Santos, Chris Lutz and Alex Cabagnot, Gregorio said playing good defense is also a big challenge for his team.
“Our defense must get them out of sync. Cabagnot played steady for 45 minutes and his back-to-back four-point plays dashed our chances of winning. Santos waxed hot in the third and ended with 19 points. We know what these guys are capable of doing and they must be addressed,” said Gregorio.
“Playing with a great sense of urgency is given. But we must combine it with basketball intelligence and composure. All is not lost. We will compete,” Gregorio added. - By Nelson Beltran