by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Zamboanga City)
5 p.m. – Magnolia vs Meralco
Magnolia is out to give Mark Barroca a memorable homecoming when it takes on Meralco in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mayor Vitaliano Agan Coliseum in Zamboanga City.
The 5 p.m. Petron Blaze Saturday Special game will not see the Hotshots attempt to go for their fifth straight win but also mark the first time Barroca plays in his hometown since turning pro in 2011.
Barroca is determined to put on a show as the PBA returns in the city since a 2010 duel between Talk N’ Text and San Miguel Beer.
A victory enhances Magnolia’s quest to clinch a quarters berth and catch up with TNT KaTropa (7-1) and NorthPort (7-2) in the race for the twice-to-beat advantage given to the top two teams.
“Malaking bagay pag manalo kami (sa Zamboanga) kasi aakyat kami sa standings at may malaking chance na makapunta kami sa top two,” said Barroca.
The Hotshots are on a tear after starting the conference with two straight defeats and are coming off a shock 118-82 blowout of the San Miguel Beermen in a rematch of last month’s Philippine Cup Finals.
Import James Farr, Barroca, Jio Jalalon and Paul Lee were mainly responsible for the turnaround even as Magnolia has been getting a significant boost with the return of Marc Pingris from a 15-month absence due to an ACL tear on his left knee.
Meralco, meanwhile, will parade a new import in Delroy James with Gani Lawal still bothered by an injured quad.
The 32-year-old James, born in the South American country of Guyana, had stints in the NBA D-League, Israel, Italy, Turkey and Greece.
James led Greek side AEK Athens to the 2018 Basketball Champions League and 2019 FIBA Intercontinental Cup titles.
Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, Raymond Almazan and Cliff Hodge are keen on playing crucial roles as the Bolts eye a crucial win to keep inside track at the quarters.
Meralco currently holds a 3-5 record.