AND now there are only four teams -- defending champion San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra, Magnolia and NLEX.
After 40 playing days and 73 games, push will finally come into shove as the top four teams after the elimination and quarterfinal rounds meet in a pair of best-of-seven series for the right to dispute the ultimate prize: the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup.
San Miguel (8-3) vs Ginebra (6-5)
How they get there:
San Miguel def. Talk N Text, 106-93; Ginebra def. Rain or Shine, 88-80 and 99-91.
Four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo will provide the big difference in what could be another heart-stopping semifinal showdown between two of the league’s most popular teams.
Fajardo, voted as Mr. Basketball by the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA), can be really be unstoppable playing alongside Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot.
Nicknamed the ‘Kraken’, the 6-10 Fajardo leads the league in both scoring ( 22.8 points) and rebounding (13.8) while playing nearly 38 minutes a game.
Against Talk N Text, Fajardo had a monster game of 35 points (on 15-of-19 shooting) and 15 rebounds as the twice-to-beat Beermen dispatched the Tropang Texters in hurry.
His supporting cast is just as formidable.
Santos averages 16.4 ppg,10.4 rpg and 2.9 apg; Cabagnot has 7.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 4.2 apg; Lassiter has 16.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 3.1 apg; and Ross has 11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 6.5 apg.
Without the towering Greg Slaughter, Ginebra will send Japeth Aguilar (19.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Joe Devance, Jervy Cruz and even Prince Caperal to slow down Fajardo.
Ginebra’s biggest strength will be its run-and-gun game anchored on LA Tenorio (14.8 ppg, 5.1 apg), Scottie Thompson (11.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg), Sol Mercado (4.1 ppg) , and Mark Caguioa (4.0 ppg).
Actually, the Gin Kings dealt one of only three losses of the Beermen in the elimination round, pulling off a 100-96 win behind a combined 46-point output of Tenorio and Aguilar last Jan.28.
Prediction: San Miguel in six games.
Magnolia (8-3) vs NLEX (6-5)
How they get there: Magnolia def. Globalport, 86-79; NLEX def. Alaska Milk, 105-99 and 87-83.
Paul Lee (17.3 ppg), Ian Sangalang (13.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Mark Barroca (10.4 ppg, 4.1 apg), Marc Pingris (6.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg), Justin Melton (8.6 ppg), Rafi Reavis (4.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Jio Jalalon (8.2 ppg) will carry the fight for the Hotshots of coach Chito Victolero.
Magnolia defeated NLEX, 105-94, in their elimination round game last Jan. 14 enroute to an 8-3 win-loss record.
The injury, however, by Pingris could provide a good opportunity for NLEX to complete an upset in their semifinal duel.
NLEX, which reached the semis by eliminating Alaska Milk in their quarterfinal duel, will pin its hopes on Larry Fonacier (19.6 ppg), Kiefer Ravena (15.4 ppg), JR Quinahan (14.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg),Kevin Alas (11.4 ppg), and Alex Mallari (9.0 ppg).
Prediction: Magnolia in six.
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If you have time, come and watch the E. Rodriguez Jr. High School “Battle of the Generations” basketball and volleyball tournament starting March 18 at the Barangay N.S, Amoranto covered courts in Malaya St., Quezon City.
An annual undertaking of the ERJHS Alumni Sports Club as part of the school’s 66th anniversary celebrations, the Sunday-only competitions will pit select players from different batches belonging to the 80s and 90s.
Quezon City Rep. Bingbong Crisologo and Councilor Onyx Crisologo have been invited to watch the opening ceremony at 9 a.m.
Supporting the event is Barangay N.S.Amoranto Chairman Von Yalong.
Last month, the ASC organized the first “Learn and Play Chess with the Masters” 15-board simultaneous exhibition matches by Asia’s first GM Eugene Torre and chess clinic by the Meralco Chess Club.
The event was also presented by the ERJHS Class 68 and the Roberto Castor Rover Scouts.
NOTES -- Belated happy 8th wedding anniversary to People’s Tonight sportswriter Elmer N. Manuel and his lovely wife Diane.