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Champions’ row

Ravena hopes KaTropa plug holes in their game as they prepare for killer schedule where they face last season’s top squads
/ 05:25 AM October 18, 2019

TNT, unbeaten thus far in the PBA Governors’ Cup, tries to stretch its winning ways when it battles Alaska on Friday at Ynares Center in Antipolo, Rizal.

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But it’s not just improving on its 6-0 record  that KaTropa coach Bong Ravena is focused on. It’s also working on the team’s weaknesses as it prepares to plunge into the precarious part of its schedule.

“We can’t afford having slow starts,” he said after the close shave against Meralco last weekend. “We can’t be giving up 30 points in a quarter.”

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There’s a glut of positives for Ravena to focus on—like their resilience down the stretch, import KJ McDaniel’s sleek scoring and his old reliables’—Jayson Castro and Roger Pogoy—return to form.

But Ravena, whose charges are setting the pace in the elimination round race, feels it is urgent for the team to double down on needed improvements—things he said they need to iron out before a killer schedule that features matches against last year’s troika of champions: San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia. TNT’s other game in that final stretch is against sister team NLEX.

“The big teams are around the corner,” said Ravena as he lamented the team’s performance in its previous outing. “The first quarter, Meralco outscored us (32-16). We can’t allow that big of a margin against the big teams.”

TNT might not get the test it needs against Alaska, which is struggling for form in a conference where it made a coaching change that had Jeffrey Cariaso assuming the role once fleshed out by Alex Compton.

But Ravena hopes to still work on the team’s game because “we can’t have any dips”  against the big teams.

Blackwater, meanwhile, returns to the venue where it picked up just its second victory of the conference.

The Elite play the Bolts in the 4:30 p.m. contest, with the former shooting for a comfortable spot in the draw and the latter hoping to solidify their bid in the Top 4 and a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs.

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Aris Dimaunahan, Blackwater’s shot-caller, is looking to do just that with Marqus Blakely as the choice for import as the conference plods along.

Blakely, who played in lieu of an injured Aaron Fuller, needs to summon his lethal self when he goes up against a fellow tested import—and a decorated one—in Allen Durham.

“He had a near-quadruple double last time,” Dimaunahan said of Blakely. “That inspired the locals to have great energy.”

Which is what exactly the No. 8 Elite need as they brace for the second half of their elimination round campaign.

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TAGS: Alaska, Basketball, PBA governors’ cup, TNT KaTropa
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