Batang Pier try to keep hot run going, take on Fuel Masters

SAN Miguel Beer meets today a Magnolia team it defeated in Philippine Cup finals more than a month ago, while NorthPort tries to wrest the lead anew as the PBA Commissioner’s Cup enters the crucial stage in the elimination.

The Beermen and the Hotshots collide in the 7 p.m. main offering of a regular double-header that will also see the Batang Pier try to sustain their hot streak going in their 4:30 p.m. collision with Phoenix at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

How have the Beermen and the Hotshots been doing lately in the elimination round since their grueling Philippine Cup series more than a month ago?

The Beermen, who won the prestigious All-Filipino title in seven games, and the Hotshots both struggled in the early goings in the elimination, but nevertheless both have recovered to be in the thick of things in the midseason conference.

The Beermen suffered back-to-back setbacks (121-88) against NorthPort and 110-97 against Talk ‘N Text, before they barged into the win column with a 127-106 rout of Blackwater. Then, they lost again, this time to Barangay Ginebra, 110-107, last June 16, but bounced back in style as they clobbered Alaska, 119-107, on June 21.

At 2-3, the Beermen are near the bottom of the standings, and that they need to continue compiling more wins or they would be left stranded at where they are – 9th place.

“It’s a very important game for us as we don’t want to be in the bottom,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.

The Hotshots are doing better than the Beermen, winning their last three outings after a 0-2 start.

The Hotshots lost badly in their initial foray in the conference on June 5, absorbing a 103-80 drubbing at the hands of Alaska. They lost next to NorthPort, 102-99 on June 12, before they wrapped up their last three games – 98-88 vs. NLEX, 110-103 vs Columbian Dyip and 99-96 vs Phoenix.

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero sounded a bit thankful for the remarkable improvement he had seen in his Hotshots.

“Mahirap dahil sunud-sunod ang laro. Pero unti-unti bumabalik na ang rhythm. Hopefully, mas gumanda pa ang laro sa mga susunod na laro,” said Victolero.

“We have a tough game coming up against San Miguel. Kailangan namin ng magandang preparasyon. But at least maganda na ang nilalaro namin, especially on defense,” added Victolero.

The two teams engaged in a classic championship series in the all-Filipino tourney, with the Beermen retaining the crown in beating the Hotshots down the stretch in the deciding Game Seven.

The Batang Pier, meanwhile, try to match Talk ‘N Text’s 5-game streak, as they play the Fuel Masters, a team the looked like contenders earlier before misfortunes struck them.

The Batang Pier are actually in a tie with the KaTropa at the helm on similar 7-1 win-loss slates, which means a victory today will propel them back to solo lead while bolstering their chances for the top two seedings and the bonus that goes with them.

Phoenix is toting a 2-4 record and is also near the bottom. Worse, four of Phoenix’s players are doubtful in today’s crucial game. These are Jaypee Mendoza, L.A. Revilla, Rey Guevarra and Mike Gamboa. Phoenix is already without Calvin Abueva who has been suspended indefinitely by the PBA.