IT will be another Blockbuster Saturday for basketball fans with defending champion Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia Pambansang Manok taking on each other today at the start of their best-of-five semifinal series in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
The 6:30 p.m. match, billed as the “Manila Clasico”, will feature two sister teams under the San Miguel Corp. banner with a long and colorful tradition of rivalry.
And both Ginebra coach Tim Cone and Magnolia mentor Chito Victolero couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling, so to speak.
Both coaches expect war in their semifinal series, too.
“It’s going to be a tough one for us,” said Cone, referring to the semifinal matchup against Magnolia.
“But it should be a great battle with two teams both peaking at the right time,” explained Cone.
Cone, also the league’s winningest coach while handling Alaska, Magnolia and Ginebra, said the Gin Kings cannot take the Hotshots lightly even if they have beaten them in the last seven meetings.
Cone said the trend is no guarantee for success since both teams always play with extra motivation whenever they play against each other.
“There’s always a different atmosphere to the game and the players seem to work extra hard to get ready for it,” added Cone.
Victolero said the Hotshots are also excited to be back in the semis.
“It’s nice to be back again in the semis. We missed it last conference,” said Victolero. “But we all know we have a big task ahead of us. Obviously we’re underdogs in this series against the defending champions.”
Victolero, who now has steered Magnolia to a fifth Final Four in six conferences, recalled the only time the Hotshots missed the semis was in the last Commissioner’s Cup, when they wound up seventh.
Both the Gin Kings and the Hotshots finished at top four in the elimination round and earned twice-to-beat advantages in the quarterfinals..
They did not take any chances against their quarterfinal opponents.
The Gin Kings, who clinched top seed, crushed NLEX 111-75, while the Hotshots, who finished No. 4, eliminated Blackwater, 103-99.