by Jonas Terrado
Game Saturday (Mall of Asia Arena)
6:30 p.m. – Phoenix Pulse vs San Miguel
Phoenix Pulse will get to know its capability of competing for the ultimate prize when it starts the best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against five-time defending champion San Miguel Beer at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fuel Masters look to gain the early advantage in the 6:30 p.m. and live up to their billing as the team that finished the elimination round with the league’s best record.
Coach Louie Alas’ team enters the series well-rested after finishing off Alaska, 91-76, in Sunday’s quarterfinals at the Mall of Asia Arena – a result that gave Phoenix its first-ever semifinal appearance.
But Alas knows the breakthrough feat is no excuse for his players to put their guards down, especially against the Beermen squad which seems untouchable in the season-opening conferene.
“Nag-uumpisa pa lang yung war,” said Alas. “We have to stay humble and keep working hard.”
San Miguel enters the series coming off a grueling three-game quarterfinal series win over TNT KaTropa.
The Beermen are anticipating that the Fuel Masters will make hard on them to advance to a sixth straight Philippine Cup Finals.
In fact, Phoenix beat San Miguel, 96-93, in a hard-fought provincial game last month in Panabo City to secure the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
“Phoenix is not No. 1 for nothing,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria. “We should study well on what should we do.”
The trio of Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva and Jason Perkins, who delivered a career-high 31 points against Alaska, will lead Phoenix’s bid to end San Miguel’s streak of finals appearances in the season’s most important tournament.
June Mar Fajardo, coming off a dominant display against TNT, tries to keep San Miguel’s mean streak along with a plethora of talented teammates.
Christian Standhardinger, Arwind Santos, Terrence Romeo, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot are hoping to maximize San Miguel’s depth.