by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
4:30 p.m. – Blackwater vs Meralco
6:45 p.m. – Phoenix Pulse vs TNT KaTropa
Phoenix Pulse is not taking depleted TNT KaTropa for granted as it seeks a second straight win and the early lead tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Fresh from a 93-92 overtime victory over the Meralco Bolts last Wednesday, the Fuel Masters are bracing for another hard-fought affair this time against the KaTropa in the Petron Saturday special set at 6:30 p.m.
Coach Louie Alas’ squad takes on a TNT side that fell 90-79 to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Sunday’s season-opener at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The KaTropa go into the contest without Jericho Cruz, who bared through social media that he’ll be out for at least a month due to a hamstring injury sustained in practice.
Cruz’s injury is the latest setback to hit TNT with Troy Rosario expected to be on the sidelines until the end of next month after breaking his nose during a tune-up game.
Alas, however, said that their absence doesn’t mean as an immediate advantage for Phoenix.
“They have become quicker,” Alas said in Filipino, noting TNT’s smaller lineup.
The Fuel Masters almost fell short in their initial assignment of the conference, had not for Calvin Abueva’s putback in the dying seconds of the extra session.
But Phoenix is taking positives from a career-game from center Justin Chua who scored 24 points and last season’s Second Mythical Team member Matthew Wright with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, Don Trollano and Michael Miranda try to power the KaTropa to an upset victory despite the losses of Rosario and Cruz.
In the 4:30 p.m. opener, Blackwater and Meralco attempt to redeem themselves from Wednesday’s defeat and gain their first win of the tournament.
Blackwater was beaten black and blue by NorthPort, 117-91, that saw rookie Robert Bolick erupt for 26 points in his debut while Meralco aims at shrugging off the overtime loss and barge into the win column.