Alaska, Meralco begin semis duel
Alaska Milk and Meralco, two teams who are both upbeat and in high spirits after defying great odds to make the Final Four, both look to push their drives further as they start their side of the PBA Governors Cup best-of-five semifinal series at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo tonight.
There’s not much of a playoff history between the two teams. Both simply pursue a lofty aspiration in their series that determines which team will do the last dance with the winner of the other semis matchup pitting Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia.
Tip-off in the series opener is at 6:30 p.m. with the Aces having the advantage of a day longer of rest. But the Bolts will ride the momentum of six straight wins in do-or-die matches.
It’s a duel of two teams that showed great desire and determination to reach this point.
While the Bolts avoided elimination in six knockout settos, the Aces went through nothing less than a quarters matchup with the powerhouse Beermen to make the semis.
Meralco now has a chance for a third straight Governors Cup finals while Alaska has its sights set on a first title playoff in seven conferences.
“I have the highest respect for coach Norman, Meralco, Allen Durham and how hard they are playing. I was so impressed watching them play. I know we have a real battle on our hands this series,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton. In completing a great turnaround from a 1-6 start in the conference, Black, meanwhile, is now focused on pushing his team forward.
He’s now very positive with what they have achieved in their last six games and on how they’re playing going into the semis.
“A lot of these turnaround was caused by the all-around game of Allen Durham. He’s scoring, rebounding the ball, and defending. Then if he leads like that, his teammates are going to follow,” said Black.
And Black said all his players are just determined to stay in the hunt.
“It’s the desire of the players to continue winning. This conference, we’ve done well in the last two years with Allen. It would be pretty bad to get eliminated immediately. That’s why the body is fighting. We know we have a good import and all we need to do is to support him and give ourselves a chance of winning,” said Black.
The Aces, however, have their own gem of an import in Mike Harris.
Then there have been the consistent outstanding performances of Alex Compton and Vic Manuel, and the killer pressing game of the Alaska team.
Black feels, though, that they have been prepared by their Phoenix matchup for the Alaska series.
“We might be fortunate that we played Phoenix in the quarters because they’re a pressing team. They force a lot of turnovers. They score a lot points off turnovers and off fastbreaks, very similar to what Alaska does,” said Black.
“We’ll see pretty much things we saw against Phoenix. So our press breaks and all the things we have to do to break their pressure and get the ball down court will come in handy when we face Alaska,” Black added.
“Of course, Alaska is a different team, with a different set of personnel but similar principles. Maybe because coach Alex and coach Louie (Alas) used to work together.”
In the elims, the Aces whipped the Bolts, 80-72. —
Alaska Aces' Chris Banchero and tough defender Jared Dillinger of Meralco Bolts will face each other in the start of their semis series tonight.