Meralco in tough group with Lebanon, Japan, Thailand

September 16, 2018
Meralco Bolts

THE FIBA Asia Champion’s Cup 2018 will not be a catwalk for two-time PBA Governor’s Cup runner-up Meralco.

That’s because Meralco will be grouped with three of the strongest teams in the  prestigious tournament scheduled Sept. 27-Oct. 2 in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

In a FIBA.com report released  recently,  Meralco will join  defending champion Al-Riyadi of Lebanon, Alvark Tokyo of Japan and host Mono Vampire Basketball Club of Thailand in Group B.

In  Group A are Pauian Archiland of Chinese-Taipei, Liaoning Flying  Leopards of China, SK Knights of  Korea and  Petrochimi of Iran.

Venue of the  week-long competition is the Stadium 29 in Nonthaburi.

Meralco coach Norman Black said the Bolts will be reinforced by two-time PBA Best Import Allen Durham and a still-unnamed import.

“It will be very difficult ( to go up against top club teams in Asia), but we’ll do our best to represent the country,” said Black  shortly after Meralco was tapped to replace San Miguel Beer as Philippine representative to the tournament.

Last year, Chooks-to-Go represented the country and finished in fifth place in Chenzhou, China with Isaiah Austin as import.

As hosts, Mono Vampires were able to select their group which they selected to be in Group B.

Mono Vampire head coach, Douglas Marty, explained that the decision to play in Group B factored from the teams forms in the past year’s tournament as well as some basic information known about each team.

Though he and the team acknowledges that each and every team in this competition are highly talented, he feels that Group B might be more favorable in terms of size.

The complet egroupings”

Group A: Pauian Archiland (Chinese-Taipei), Liaoning Flying Leopards (China), SK Knights (Korea), Petrochimi (Iran)

Group B: Al-Riyadi (Lebanon), Alvark Tokyo (Japan), , Meralco Bolts (Philippines), Mono Vampire Basketball Club (Thailand)

FIBA earlier reported that action in the Asia Champion’s Cup will be highly intense as “these eight teams are the best clubs in their respective nations.”

“Even though they will be playing under the name of their clubs, expect everyone to play with limitless effort for national pride as they aim  to win the FIBA Asia  Champions Cup 2018,” said the report.

Al-Riyadi of Lebanon defeated  Kashgar-China, 88-59, to capture the  championship  in Chenzhou, China last year.

The other teams to watch are Petrochimi of Iran, which finished fourth last year after third-place place finish in 2016; and Mono Vampire Club of Thailand, which wound up sixth in its first-ever appearance in the tournament.

The participation of  Meralco to the FIBA Asia Champion’s Cup was approved by the PBA Board during its annual planning session in Las Vegas over the weekend.

“Without a doubt, the partnership of the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas and tbe PBA has become more solid. This is a big, big plus for our national team,” said SBP president and Meralco representative Al Panlilio.

Panlilio said he sees no problem in the Meralco schedule in the PBA Governor’s Cup since only the Bolts’ game against Rain or Shine at the Ynares Center in Antipolo on Sept. 28 will be affected.

San Miguel Beer was initially listed in the FIBA website as the Philippine representative.

But San Miguel Corp. Sports Director Alfrancis Chua said no one has approached them regarding an official invitation.