Alaska, Meralco go all out for semifinal slot
Alaska and Meralco, both noted for their hard-nosed defense, clash today in a one-game playoff for a place in the PBA Philippine Cup’s Final Four at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Game time is 5 p.m. with the Aces having a slight edge owing to a deeper bench.
The winner of this match advances to face Rain or Shine in a seven-game semifinal series with the Elasto Painters fresh from a long break after qualifying outright into the semifinals for finishing second overall in the elimination round.
Alaska, which led this tournament from the start only to fall short of a top two berth after losing its last two elimination round games, is one of the top defensive teams in the conference.
The Aces play with a gung-ho attitude when it comes to defense, with Calvin Abueva anchoring their gritty stand that rubs off on his teammates.
“They say that the team’s defensive mentality comes from its coach,” Alaska mentor Alex Compton said. “Don’t ask me, I never defended anyone in my playing career. It’s just the players.”
Alaska also has a slight advantage in frontline personnel with former national team player Sonny Thoss not having a match—in terms of size—over at the Meralco roster.
Reynel Hugnatan is coach Norman Black’s most reliable big man, and the long-haired center is just 6-foot-4.
Black will draw power from nationals Gary David and Jared Dillinger and his backcourt must step up bigtime to counter the rotation that Compton has in JV Casio, RJ Jazul, Cyrus Baguio and Dondon Hontiveros.
Mike Cortez is playing well and should again start at the point for Black, who eliminated Tim Cone and the defending champion Purefoods Star Hotshots on Thursday by holding James Yap and Co. to just 65 points, a team-low.
“One thing that’s good is that we are getting to learn to play defense as a team,” Black told reporters on Thursday.
“This is a huge win for the Meralco program,” Black continued. “This (beating Purefoods in a series) is something we have been trying to accomplish.”