Ginebra, B-Meg start semifinal showdownBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
ANTIPOLO—The matchup made for the box-office happens today, with popular sides Barangay Ginebra and B-Meg clashing in Game 1 of their best-of-five Final Four series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Ynares Center here.
Game time is 6:45 p.m. with the odds stacked slightly against the Gin Kings, who are expected to play the series without top local Mark Caguioa.
This will be the first time in an import-spiced tournament that the two sister teams will slug it out. The only two times that this happened before were in all-Filipino tournaments with both squads splitting the result.
Caguioa, after banging his face hard against the floor last week, is out with a right orbital eye socket injury, giving the Gin Kings one less gunslinger on the floor against one of the most loaded lineups in the tournament in the Llamados.
Ginebra actually won its last meeting with B-Meg and booked the second outright Final Four slot, leaving the Llamados in a best-of-three showdown with Meralco which they eventually won, 2-1.
Caguioa, the Kings’ spiritual leader, was helped out of the court in the second quarter of that game, and KG Canaleta filled up the slack with a monstrous offensive performance that caught B-Meg by surprise.
His absence could make life more difficult for the Kings, especially if Canaleta is checked, leaving much of the offensive burden on talented import Jackson Vroman and a bevy of veterans led by Jay-Jay Helterbrand.
Coach Tim Cone of the Llamados is hoping for the best for Caguioa, whose MRI will be read by specialists today.
But after that, Cone is ready to do battle with the Kings again and take a step closer towards a finals meeting with the winner of the Talk ‘N Text-Barako Bull series, Game 1 of which is going on at press time also here in Antipolo.
“After we lost to Ginebra in the KO game, we needed the chance to play them again because we know we can play well against them,” Cone said. “This series (against Meralco) toughened us up, brought us together.
“What happened to Caguioa was very sad,” Cone continued. “He brings the fans in. I feel so sorry for him, and I hope things work out and he gets back. I think that’s bigger than the series itself, bigger than the championship.”
Vroman had more than a week’s rest— time to polish up on his free throw shooting —as he comes into the series a marked man.
The naturalized Lebanese is playing extremely well, with the only black eye in his game being his free throw shooting percentage, which is under 35% coming into the game.
“It’s a mystery even for me,” Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen said. “I mean, he makes his free throws in practice, while being coached by coach Allan (Caidic). I don’t know, maybe game pressure has something to do with it.”
Canaleta exploded for 24 points the last time these two squads met, and for sure, with Caguioa absent, Canaleta will be in the pre-game defensive plans of Cone.