Meralco-Mahindra for No. 4; RoS-Phoenix for survival
CHRIS Gavina has been earning raves with the job he has been doing with the Mahindra Enforcers in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
With something really big at stake today, it’s time for the rookie coach to prove his stuff yet again.
The last twice-to-beat privilege in the quarterfinals will be up for grabs in the 4:15 p.m. game between the Enforcers and Meralco, whose coach, the multi-titled Norman Black, was the latest to acknowledge the fine work of the hitherto unknown Gavina.
“They are well-coached and they have played well this conference,” Black told the Inquirer via a text message after preparing for the last time for today’s crucial tiff at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao where the winner takes No. 4 ranking into the playoffs.
“We know that it will be a tough game,” Black said, more so after he had described “the ball bouncing our way” in an 86-83 squeaker his Bolts pulled out over the Enforcers the only time they met in the elimination round.
For the Bolts and the Enforcers, this will be the start of a best-of-three series as they are also bracketed to square off in the quarterfinals, the only difference being that the loser today would need to beat the winner two straight times to march on to the Final Four.
“Our biggest concern would be (James) White, who is a force on both ends of the floor,” Black explained. “It’s playoff time, so putting up a good defense will be our main focus.”
The tournament has been a dream run for the Enforcers until the final two weeks of the eliminations, where they couldn’t get that one win to automatically bag No. 4 ranking for the win-once privilege in the quarterfinals.
Despite Gavina’s great showing, Mahindra lost its last three games in the first round—by slim margins—with all the foes they faced managing to hold White to the minimum.
And while White will be the focal point of the Mahindra game, there’s no doubt that Meralco will sink or swim with Allen Durham, the man Black described once as “a horse” who has been the Bolts’ own anchor on both ends.
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine and Phoenix Petroleum clash in the 7 p.m. main game, with the winner punching the last ticket to the playoffs and the loser joining GlobalPort, Star and Blackwater in an early vacation.
The Elasto Painters have a streak of 12 consecutive playoff appearances going, and would need to lean a lot on Josh Dollard to provide the spark with the Fuel Masters certain to get a lot of scoring and rebounding from Eugene Phelps.
Whoever wins in the second game will draw No. 1 TNT KaTropa in the quarterfinals starting Saturday, needing to beat the powerhouse Texters two straight times to advance.
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