(Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
4:15 p.m. – Phoenix vs Kia
7 p.m. – Meralco vs San Miguel
Defending champion San Miguel hopes to have a better showing this time as it battles Meralco seeking a second straight win and a share of the early lead tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
The Beermen opened their quest for a fourth straight crown in the all-Filipino tournament last Dec. 17 with a 104-96 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters, but were groping for form after showing little semblance of their usual dominance.
San Miguel faces Meralco in the second game at 7 p.m. The Bolts are coming off a 103-98 win over the Blackwater Elite at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Chris Ross, who will be tasked to lead the Beermen’s quest to join the NLEX Road Warriors on top of the leaderboard, expressed little concern over the team’s showing against the Fuel Masters marred by 21 turnovers.
“We’re a rhythm team so I think in the beginning it will be a little rocky. But as soon as we find our rhythm, I think we’ll be fine,” Ross said. “We play against ourselves out there, if everyone comes out locked in and on the same page, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Perhaps one aspect San Miguel wants to improve is the bench production after majority of the scoring came from the ‘Fab Five’ of Ross, June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter.
Veteran center Billy Mamaril, acquired in the offseason after unloading Jay-R Reyes as part of a trade that eventually landed them Christian Standhardinger, and point guard Brian Heruela turned in decent outings for San Miguel in the season-opener.
Meralco gained a positive start to its campaign in the tournament that has been a waterloo for the last two seasons, rallying from a 12-point deficit while riding on the red-hot shooting of new addition KG Canaleta to beat Blackwater.
Despite the early-season injuries to Cliff Hodge and Ranidel de Ocampo, Bolts coach Norman Black feels his team has a chance to end the all-Filipino struggle with Canaleta and fellow newcomer Jason Ballesteros alongside healthy mainstays Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger, Garvo Lanete and Chris Newsome.
“Our problem last year in the all-Filipino, we couldn’t score inside and we couldn’t shoot from the perimeter,” Black said. “This time around, we have good perimeter shooters so we’ll be throwing up a lot of threes, and I think that’s the style we will play in this conference.”
Phoenix and Kia face off in the 4:15 p.m. opener as they aim to barge into the win column after dropping their opening assignments.
Both teams, however, saw silver linings in their losses, with Phoenix showing comfort executing the full-court press trademarked by new coach Louie Alas and Kia almost scoring an upset win over NLEX exactly a week ago at the Filoil Flying V Centre after falling 119-115.