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Seeking to end the bubble hex

Jeff Chan
Jeff Chan of Ginebra dribbles against Paul Desiderio of Blackwater in he first quarter of their game on Thursday night. The Gin Kings survived the gritty Elite for their second straight win. (PBA Images)

THERE’S still a lot of fight left in the Alaska camp despite going to battle without two mainstays. Not only that, the Aces have also lost their first two games in the first week of the PBA bubble in Clark City.

The Aces would be an easy picking, you might say.

But don’t tell that to Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, whose Hotshots play the Aces at 6:45 p.m. today in the second half of another doubleheader in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena.

Victolero, in fact, expects a tough game from a team trying to avoid to fall into a 0-3 hole.

“We expect a very hard and tight game because Alaska is coming off two straight losses and I think they (Aces) will come up very strong on Saturday (today),” said Victolero in a text message to People’s Journal on Thursday.

“Kasi makakalaban namin galing sa talo, eh. Kagabi (Wednesday) pa lang, sinabi ko na sa kanila na Alaska will come out very, very strong because…0-2 they have that sense of urgency to, you know, fight back, play hard,” added Victolero.

That fear is not lost on Victolero despite the fact that the Aces will go to the battle minus Kevin Racal, who has been diagnosed with a torn right ACL, and Maverick Ahanmisi, who is a late arrival in the bubble and would be cleared from the mandatory quarantine only on Sunday.

Taking the hardcourt in the 4 o”clock opener are the Blackwater Elite and NLEX Road Warriors in a game featuring a team which has split its first two assignments and another which has also fallen twice in this first week of eliminations.

To Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso, the game against the Hotshots presents an opportunity for his Aces to finally snap out of stupor and get that much-needed respect again from the enemies.

“I like this match-up kasi feeling ko we can also match up with them,” said Cariaso on the eve of the contest.

“First of all we have to be ready for their pressure. Alam naman natin na they are guard-heavy. Makukulit mga guards nila so we have to be able to handle the pressure better,” he added.

On a night to remember, the Hotshots beat NLEX a few days ago in a game which saw Magnolia rise from the depths of a 22-point deficit and beat the Road Warriors, 103-100, thanks to a rare four-point play by veteran Paul Lee in the dying moments of the thriller.

The Fab Four–Chris Banchero, Jio Jalalon, Lee and Mark Barroca–did a yeoman job in that Magnolia’s heroic rally.

Cariaso, however, is undaunted.

” I think we have the guards to match up and then may advantage rin tayo inside. I also know Ian (Sangalang) is their biggest threat inside. Feeling ko, if we play at a better level, mas advantage big guys natin,” said Cariaso.

Both the Elite and the Road Warriors are coming off losses, with the former giving Ginebra a whale of a fight before going down (99-103) on Thursday night and the latter absorbing a painful 100-103 setback to Magnolia on Wednesday.

Against the Gin Kings, the Elite gave a good account of themselves, giving Ginebra a lot of headache before eventually losing in a game where the league’s most popular team drew big numbers from an unlikely source in Prince Caperal, who dropped 24 points, took six rebounds and made three assists.

Expect NLEX to play as if the game is meant the whole world for them. Falling to 0-3 is something the Road Warriors hate the most.

NLEX coach Yeng Guiao is hoping the defeat at the hands of Magnolia is no longer in the minds of his Road Warriors, who seemed to have Magnolia’s number as it led by 22 points only to disintegrate in the fourth period.

The Elite made heads turn after debuting with a 96-89 win over Northport while giving new coach Nash Racela a winning return to his head-coaching business. Against the Kings, they didn’t go down without a fight.

By Arman Carandang