By WAYLON GALVEZ
Games Today (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
5:15 p.m. Powerade vs Meralco
7:30 p.m. Ginebra vs Petron
Manila, Philippines – Despite injuries to Jay Washington and Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Petron is surprisingly on top of the field in the PBA Philippine Cup.
“Credit the players because they are really working very hard, particularly on defense,“ said Petron coach Ato Agustin on the eve of their showdown with Barangay Ginebra at 7:30 p.m. today at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Washington (knee) and Al-Hussaini (ACL) are still recovering from injuries, but rookie forward Chris Lutz, nursing a hamstring injury, could be available against the Kings.
Petron grabbed the top spot with a 9-3 card after defending champion Talk ‘N Text lost to B-Meg, 104-114, and dropped to solo second place with an 83 record last Sunday at the Big Dome.
That same day, the Boosters won over the Alaska Aces, 9085, which extended their winning streak to five. Petron’s other four wins were against Meralco (76-75) in Naga City, Barako Bull (75-66), Rain or Shine (90-80), newcomer Shopinas.com (102-77) and also against Alaska (86-80).
“We’re hoping that we can continue winning, our target of course is to get the No. 1 position (in the quarters),“ said Agustin.
The top two teams after the elimination round will earn twiceto-beat incentives in the quarter final playoffs against the No. 7 and 8 qualifiers. The Nos. 3 to 6 will play in the crossover best-ofthree series.
The last two teams will be eliminated automatically.
Ginebra still has a mathematical chance for the twice-to-beat, but it must win its remaining four games beginning with Petron.
“It will be tough, they’re (Petron) on a roll and they’re really playing well,“ said Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen, whose team’s last win was opposite Alaska (85-77) last Nov. 23. “This game is crucial, with every team now jockeying for position in the playoffs.“
The Kings are also dealing with injuries to new recruits Rico Maierhofer and Allein Maliksi.