SMB tests Meralco
With the entire field wanting to shoot it down, defending champion San Miguel Beer returns to action Wednesday and will put Meralco to the test in the PBA Philippine Cup as they jostle for the early elimination round lead at Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Coming off an impressive 104-96 decision of Phoenix Petroleum in the inaugurals, the Beermen will slug it out with the Bolts in the 7 p.m. contest.
“They will be a handful,” Meralco coach Norman Black said of the Beermen, after his Bolts also had a shaky debut against the Blackwater Elite a week ago.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria didn’t hide his strengths in the win over Phoenix, calling on his starting unit to do practically all of the offensive damage on the Fuel Masters.
Against Phoenix, Austria’s first five scored all but nine of the total San Miguel output, with reigning four-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo finishing with 23 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
“The first win is really hard [to get], especially because everyone is preparing very hard for us,” Austria said.
Meanwhile, the Fuel Masters try to rebound from that defeat when they battle Kia Picanto in the 4:15 p.m. game.
“The field improved their rosters and their battlecry is to beat San Miguel Beer,” Austria went on. “But every time there’s pressure, my players play with the sense of urgency. They are still hungry [to win] the title.”
No team has achieved a four-peat in this conference, and San Miguel has come out on top of practically everyone’s list as the team to beat.
And Black’s problem will be Fajardo, with Meralco not having the player that can stop the the 6-foot-10 star one-on-one.
“I think we have a better team than the one last season,” Black added.
While San Miguel has thrived in this tournament, Meralco has gone the exact opposite. The Bolts have won just a combined four games in the last two seasons under Black, who continues to look for a dominant man in the middle.
Instead, the Bolts landed KG Canaleta from the free agent market, and the journeyman gunslinger repaid Black’s trust in their debut by shooting 25 points against his former team.
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