(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – Phoenix vs Kia
7 p.m. – Alaska vs NLEX
Aces, Road Warriors eye promising start.
A promising start is what four teams with different goals hope to achieve as the PBA Governors’ Cup unfolds today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters, seeking bigger things after three straight quarterfinal exits, take on a Kia Picanto team that underwent a last-minute import change in the season-ending conference’s curtain raiser at 4:15 p.m.
Eager to redeem themselves from a disastrous campaign in the Commissioner’s Cup, the Alaska Aces begin their quest at 7 p.m. against the NLEX Road Warriors, who are looking to finally gain significant progress after disappointing runs in their first two conferences under veteran coach Yeng Guiao.
Phoenix tries to makes its first-ever semifinal appearance since entering the league in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup with returning import Eugene Phelps, who is expected to bring his usual 20-20 numbers like in his two previous stints.
Under tournament rules, the top four teams get a twice-to-beat advantage against the four inferior squads that will make the quarterfinals.
Phelps showed why he was named “El Destructor” during a cameo appearance as a temporary import last conference by scoring 53 points against Blackwater.
The bid of the Fuel Masters to make the last four will likely get a speed bump as they’ll miss rookie Matthew Wright, who is currently playing for Gilas Pilipinas in the William Jones Cup in Taipei.
“Malaking kawalan siya sa amin kaya sana mag-step up yung mga locals,” said Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia, who gave significant minutes to his locals during their tune-up games in order to find a player who can fill the huge gap left by Wright.
After parading the Mahindra brand for the last four conferences, Kia enters the tournament reinforced by Markeith Cummings, who played for Globalport in the 2013 Governors’ Cup.
Cummings made his return after original import Chane Behanan was forced to return home when he exceeded the maximum height of 6-foot-5 by just 1/16 inches.
Meanwhile, Alaska enters the conference with plenty to prove after failing to make the quarterfinals of the Commissioner’s Cup. The Aces started out with four consecutive wins before losing their next eight, prompting coach Alex Compton to miss the playoffs for the first time in his tenure.
LeDontae Henton returns for Alaska for the second straight Governors’ Cup while Calvin Abueva leads the way for the local core.