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And now the ‘Final Eight’

  • Written by Ed Andaya
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 373

SO NOW  the  top eight teams in the PBA Governor’s Cup will now  face off in  the quarterfinals, with
the first four --  Meralco,  Talk N Text, Barangay and Star -- enjoying twice-to-beat  advantages
against their respective rivals.

But  in a conference marked so  far by outstanding team performances and dramatic individual
showings, it would not come as a  surprise  if the bottom four teams pull the rug from under their
higher-rated opponents.

This is the PBA, after all.
    
With Alaska Milk, Globalport Batang Pier,  Phoenix and Kia Picanto taking an early vacation, the
focus will now shift to the ‘Magnificent Eight.’
    
And what do our  crystal ball says in the coming quarterfinal battles?

    
1.Meralco  (9-2) vs  8.Blackwater (5-6)
         
A dramatic, come-from-behind victory by Meralco over grandslam-seeking San Miguel Beer on the
final day of eliminations last Sunday enabled the Bolts to clinch top seed and a twice-to-beat advantage
over No. 8 seed  Blackwater in the quarterfinals.
    
Led by reigning Best Import awardee Allen Durham and local heroes Jared Dillinger, Chris
Newsome, the Bolts finished with the best record in  the eliminations with a 9-2 win-loss record.
    
Durham, “The Hulk" to his PBA fans, will do it all for the Bolts and coach Norman Black against
the Elite and  his counterpart, Henry Walker.
    
At 5-6, Blackwater is fortunate enough to squeeze into the next round
    
The prize?
         
A showdown with the elimination round’s  top team --  Meralco.
 
New addition Alein Maliksi,  who made  immediate impact in his first game since being traded to
the  Elite from Star, will be hard-pressed  to deliver.
    
Prediction:  Meralco
    
2. Talk N Text  (8-3) vs  7. Rain or Shine (7-4).
    
Glen Rice Jr. , Jason Castro, Troy Rosario, Kelly Williams and Mo Tautuaa should dominate anew
for the Tropang Texters, whose 121-82 win over Ginebra enabled them to secure No. 2 seed and the right
to meet No. 7 Rain or Shine.
    
Rice and Castro made six three-point shots each in the Texters'  29-point win over the Gin Kings
and the Elasto Painters would need a rock-solid defense to counter this torrid outside shooting.
 
Talk N Text coach Nash Racela knows his team is close to being unbeatable  “if  the players
continue to shoot that way and focus on the task ahead.”
    
NBA veteran Rice is surely the main reason for Racela's confidence. The former Washington Wizard
is also coming off an outstanding  week --  25 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists and five blocks against
NLEX last Sept. 13 and 43 points, 19  rebounds, nine assists and  two steals against Star last Sept. 17.
    
Rain  or Shine’s hope to complete a surprise depend on how import J’Nathan Bullock would perform
against Talk N Text's talented frontline.
    
Bullock was impressive enough  in the E-Painters' 122-98 rout of Blackwater to end its
elimination  round campaign,  finishing with 30  points and eight rebounds.
    
Two-time MVP James Yap, Gabe Norwood,  Raymond Almazan, Maverick  Ahanmisi and rookie  Ed
Daquioag will also be challenged.
    
Prediction:  Talk N Text
         
3. Barangay Ginebra (8-3) vs  6. San Miguel Beet (7-4)
 
Heart-breaking losses in their final elimination round game put sister teams Ginebra and San
Miguel  in an   unenviable position of having to beat each other to advance to the next round -- the Gin
Kings losing to Talk N Text  (82-121) and  the  Beermen  falling to  Meralco (101-104).
    
But as the No. 3 team, Ginebra  needs only to beat San  Miguel to advance to the next round.
    
Dangerous times indeed for San Miguel, whose grand slam bid now face another big test.
    
The Beermen, however, can take consolation in  the fact that they have beaten the Gin Kings,
107-103, in their only meeting this conference last Sept. 10.
    
San Miguel's win also ended Ginebra’ s seven-game winning streak.
    
With push coming to shove, expect magnitude-8 battles between  imports Justin Brownlee of
Ginebra  and Terrence Watson of San Miguel.
    
The same can be said when Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance go up against  Junemar
Fajardo,  Arwind Santos  and Marcio Lassiter of San Miguel.
    
Tim Cone versus Leo Austria is another interesting storyline.
    
It’s too close to call, really.
    
Prediction:  San Miguel.
    
4. Star (7-4) vs.  5. NLEX (7-4)
 
Although both teams finished with  identical 7-4 record, Star's 101-93 win  over NLEX last
Sunday coupled with Meralco's triumph over San Miguel enabled the Hotshots to gain a win-once reward
over the Road Warriors in their 4 vs 5 showdown.
    
Star coach Chito Victolero said winning  their last two games in the  elimination should give
the Hotshots the much-needed momentum while going up against an  NLEX team hoping to redeem itself  from
a dead-last finish last conference.
    
Look for import Kris Acox,  Paul Lee,  Mark Barroca,  PJ Simon and Aldrech Ramos to again  
deliver for the Hotshots.
    
The Yeng Guiao-mentored Road Warriors ,  however, will be ready.
    
NLEX import Aaron Fuller,  Larry Fonacier and Juami Tiongson  now hope Star will not shine as
bright in the quarterfinals.
    
Otherwise, it will be over soon.
    
Prediction:  Star.

NOTES --  Congratulations to People’s Tonight, the country’s  No.1 tabloid published by
Philippine Journalists, Inc., which celebrated its 37th  year  anniversary last Sept. 24....
    
Belated happy birthday to  Adela Paulo, who celebrated last Sept. 19.  Adela is  now assistant   
manager  of Chowking-Ayala  Harbor Point  Subic.  Greetings from Robert Andaya.
    
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