MANILA, Philippines—Amid A looming rivalry, the AirAsia Philippine Patriots and the San Miguel Beermen vie to boost their buildup with another set of exhibition matches before the Asean Basketball League (ABL) fires off on Jan. 14.
The Beermen, one of the debuting squads in the regional home-and-away league, battle the Qatari Al-Jays at 2 p.m. today at the Ynares Sports Arena, before another showdown on Jan. 5.
The Patriots take their turn against the same Qatari club champion team at 4 p.m. on Friday at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Admission is free.
Fielding a retooled lineup, the Patriots finished second to the Beermen in a preseason tournament last week where six of Season 3’s eight-team cast saw action.
New coach Glenn Capacio said his Patriots are “still far from being called a team” while the Beermen looked “prepared” in the recent To Be Number One Basketball Challenge in Bangkok.
The Patriots hope to reclaim the crown they lost to the Chang Thailand Slammers last season by tapping reigning Best Import Nakiea Miller and Anthony Johnson as reinforcements.
Former Smart Gilas mainstay Aldrech Ramos and veteran guards Al Vergara and Warren Ybañez banner the Patriots’ local cast.
The Beermen also boast a powerhouse lineup led by Chris Banchero, the Filipino-Italian guard who consistently delivered solid games in the Bangkok tourney.
The 22-year-old Banchero, who traces his roots to Ilocos, bagged the All-American Player of the Year when he starred with the Seattle Pacific University in the NCAA Division II last year.
American imports Dalron Johnson and Richard Jeter also made strong early impressions for the Beermen along with Cebu’s 6-foot-10 standout Junemar Fajardo.
Teams have two more weeks to gear up before the league’s opening weekend where the Patriots will battle the Bangkok Cobras while the Beermen will clash with the Westports Malaysia Dragons.
Rounding up the competition are the Indonesia Warriors, Saigon Heat, Singapore Slingers and the defending champion Slammers.