Meralco tries to do the unthinkable of ending San Miguel Beer’s five-year PBA Philippine Cup reign on Sunday when they clash for a semifinals berth in their do-or-die quarterfinals match at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Tipoff is set at 6:45 p.m. with the winner extending its stay in the Smart Clark Giga City bubble and face top seed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in a best-of-five semis duel which starts on Wednesday.
Ginebra booked a place in the semis Friday night after outlasting eighth seed Rain or Shine, 81-73.
The Bolts, led primarily by Reynel Hugnatan and rookie guard Aaron Black, forced a win or go home situation after prevailing, 78-71, over the Beermen that missed the services of guard Alex Cabagnot.
Coach Norman Black said the victory and San Miguel’s situation isn’t a guarantee that Meralco has the edge.
“The one thing you have to respect with San Miguel is that they’ve been so great for so long and they’re experienced,” said Black. “They are missing some players right now, but they have key players out there on the court so you can’t really let your guard and you have to go out and play hard every single minute on the court.”
SMB sorely missed Cabagnot in the first meeting due to tightness on his hamstring, the latest player to be hit by the injury bug even before the bubble.
Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter, who are dealing with ailments, played but were not able to solve the Beermen’s 5-of-32 clip from three-point territory.
On the side, Meralco got timely shots from Hugnatan and Black to seal the win, typifying why the two emerged as the Bolts’ top scorers. Hugnatan had 16 while Black turned in 14 to continue his solid freshman campaign.
But the Bolts understand that Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, Allein Maliksi and Raymond Almazan, provided his knee has no issues that will prevent him from playing, will need to show their A-game if they want to upset SMB.
Mo Tautuaa and Arwind Santos, the Beermen’s most consistent players in the bubble, are expected to provide the offensive production while role players Von Pessumal, Paul Zamar and Russell Escoto will also be tasked to step up.