DEFENDING champion San Miguel Beer kicks off a busy and crucial week in its title-retention drive when it takes on Meralco on Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena in Pampanga.
Despite playing minus June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo, the injury-plagued Beermen will gun for their third straight win against the Bolts in the 6:40 p.m. encounter.
Veterans Arwind Santos, Mo Tautuaa, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross will again carry the fight for the Beermen, who won their previous two assignments against Terrafirma, 105-98, and Alaska Milk, 92-88, last Saturday after going 0-2 in the bubble.
“I’m so happy because of the veterans,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria. “They’ve been stepping up in a really big way, but we need to keep consistent performances para makuha namin ang immediate target namin, which is to make the next round.”
The biggest reason is San Miguel’s quick turnaround is Santos.
Santos, the PBA MVP in 2013, averaged 18.5 points and 12 rebounds in San Miguel’s two victories over the Dyip and the Aces.
“Dahil one round lang (eliminations), so importante talaga ‘yung bawa’t laro, ” said Santos. “So natalo kami first two games namin dito, sobrang sama ng laro namin. Ngayon kailangan makabawi na kami.”
Like San Miguel, Meralco is also 3-2 with victories in its last two games.
The Bolts will rely anew on 2016 Best Rookie Chris Newsome, Allein Maliksi, Baser Amer, Cliff Hodge, sophomore Bong Quinto and rookie Aaron Black.
“It’s a mid-conference game that’s very important for both teams. A win keeps you in the top half of the standings,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.
The game will actually kick off a busy week for San Miguel, which will take on sister team on Barangay Ginebra on Friday and NorthPort two days later.
…“We have to be focused and try to prepare physically and mentally,” said Austria. “We’ll take it one game at a time.”
In the 4 p.m. curtairnraiser, Blakwater Elite squares off with Magnolia Pambansang Manok.
The Elite (2-3) and the Hotshots (2-4) are among the teams fighting for the No. 8 spot in the single-round tournament.
The Hotshots, however, are fresh from a resounding 102-92 win over Barangay Ginebra.
(AUF Sports Arena)
4 p.m. — Magnolia vs. Blackwater
6:40 p.m. — Meralco vs. San Miguel