Aces test resurgent Batang Pier
THERE’S no downplaying Alaska’s status as the overwhelming favorite but the Aces certainly expect no easy sailing against the GlobalPort Batang Pier when they dispute the first championship slot starting today in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The Aces get going again at 7 p.m. after the long vacation they earned by clinching an outright semifinal slot along with the defending champion San Miguel Beermen. Both teams finished tied for first at the end of the eliminations with 9-2 win-loss records.
Both Alaska and SMB had actually seemed headed for a playoff for the second semifinal berth until NLEX upset Rain or Shine and knocked the Elasto Painters from sure No. 1 via the quotient system to No. 3 at 8-3.
Rain or Shine made it to the semifinals against San Miguel anyway with their own best-of-seven series slated to begin tomorrow, also at MoA Arena.
The Aces, bidding to reach the finals here for the second straight year, own a 123-104 rout of the Batang Pier in the eliminations. But GlobalPort is no longer the same team.
Spearheaded by Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle, now being hailed as the league’s most explosive backcourt combination in years, the Batang Pier cruised into the quarterfinal playoffs as No. 5 and then produced the tournament’s biggest shock by ousting Tim Cone and his mighty and proud Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in their knockout playoff for a semifinal slot.
GlobalPort coach Pido Jarencio said he would rely heavily on Romeo and Pringle again.
“They are the biggest reason why we are here and we will again ask them to take us to the championship [playoffs],” he said.
Jarencio also hopes to draw outstanding games from veterans Joseph Yeo and Jay Washington and big men Doug Kramer, Rico Maierhofer and Billy Mamaril.
“This is a chance that the players want: To show everyone that they deserve to be in this stage of the tournament,” Jarencio said.
Coach Alex Compton acknowledges that Alaska needs total team effort in defense to stop the Batang Pier.
And he has a tough, powerful squad that can do that. The Aces have been drawing double figures from several shooters, among them Sonny Thoss, Calvin Abueva, JV Casio, Dondon Hontiveros, Vic Manuel and Cyrus Baguio.
A sidelight is the confrontation between Romeo and Abueva, who provided highlight reels as revelations of the Gilas Pilipinas national quintet that lost the Fiba Asia Championship and a sure Olympic slot to China last year.
The San Miguel-Rain or Shine encounter is also too close to call with the Elasto Painters finally fielding superstar guard Paul Lee, who is back from a left knee surgery.
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Only Tony Lascuña remained as the regular Asian Tour campaigner who has yet to win on the circuit following the breakthrough victory of Miguel Tabuena at the Philippine Open at Luisita last month.
But the soft-spoken Lascuña, who was also overtaken by Tabuena as the 2015 Order of Merit champion on the local tour, kept his place among the outright Asian Tour qualifiers for 2016 by placing 54th among the top 63 in the money list last year.
Lascuña earned $79,735. Angelo Que was 51st with $84,205 with Tabuena landing at 23rd with $166,467.
Juvic Pagunsan, although not in the Asian Tour money list, competes in selected Asian Tour events as the 2011 Asian Tour OOM champion.