Manila, Philippines – Against a team that features former two-time MVP winner Willie Miller, together with the veteran frontline of Danny Seigle, Mick Pennisi, Dorian Peña and Don Allado, Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio knows they’re up for a tough battle today against Barako Bull.
The Bolts and the Energy, both hoping to improve their re spective playoff bid, clash for the first time in the PBA Philippine Cup at 7:30 p.m. today at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Barako Bull is packed with big named players who can still play big games. We are conscious of that fact,“ said Gregorio, whose team is fresh from a 98-96 victory over Powerade with Mac Cardona burying the game-winning shot last Friday.
“We want to stay close, defend the transition and guard their key players especially Miller, Pennisi, Seigle and Peña. If we limit their options, then we have a good chance of winning,“ added Gregorio, who also made special mention of rookie Dylan Ababou.
The 6-foot-4 Ababou, a former UAAP MVP from University of Santo Tomas selected No. 10 overall by Barako, is averaging close to 15 points and five rebounds, playing a key role in the veteran squad of coach Junel Baculi.
However, the Energy dropped their last two games last week, losing first to Petron Blaze (6675) and then to Rain or Shine (81-93).
The two teams are still in contention for the top two spots after the elimination round, which earns twice-to-beat incentive against the No. 7 and 8 squads in the quarterfinal phase. Meralco carries a 6-4 card (tied with B-Meg), while Barako Bull sports a 5-4 record.
Currently on top is defending champion Talk ‘N Text at 8-1, while Petron and Rain or Shine share second and third places with similar 7-3 slates.
“We are determined to compete against them with defense as our strongest armor. Every game is important for us. We cannot be complacent knowing that a loss can drop your standing while a victory can push you up the leader board,“ said Gregorio.
“The goal is for us to continue to climb up the ladder,“ added Gregorio, who rely anew on Cardona, as well as Sol Mercado, Asi Taunava, Gabby Espinas, Mark Isip and Chico Lanete.
Meantime, facing off in the first game at 5:15 p.m. are Barangay Ginebra and Alaska, with the Kings eyeing a repeat of their 83-72 performance against the Aces in their first meeting last Oct. 9 where Niño Canaleta had 17 points and Mark Caguioa added 16 markers.
Ginebra though is nursing a 76-88 defeat opposite B-Meg last Sunday, while Alaska is riding the crest of back-to-back wins versus Shopinas.com (86-80) and Powerade (121-111) to keep its playoff bid alive as it improved to 3-7 (tied with the Tigers.) (Waylon Galvez)