TOP half teams NLEX Road Warriors and Meralco Bolts look to fortify their win-loss cards in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup when they take on separate opponents in the resumption of festivities today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Took a break on Wednesday to give way to the campaign of Gilas Pilipinas in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon, the season-ending PBA tournament returns today with NLEX (5-1) and Meralco (4-1), currently second and third in that order in the standings, taking on the Blackwater Elite and Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters, respectively.
The Road Warriors engage the Elite in the 7 p.m. main game while the Bolts battle the Fuel Masters in the curtain-raiser at 4:15 p.m.
NLEX returns to action after a gutsy win over Meralco in its previous game, 100-94, on Sunday.
It relied on a late charge to get the victory that effectively halted Meralco’s erstwhile unbeaten run while also padding its own push to the top.
Import Aaron Fuller led the Road Warriors to the win with 25 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks while Kevin Alas and Larry Fonacier scored 21 and 16 points, respectively.
JR Quiñahan was the other NLEX player in double digits with 10 points.
“We passed a difficult test tonight against Meralco. Hopefully we get to sustain this in our upcoming games,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, whose team is expected to parade newly acquired player Cyrus Baguio.
Out to spoil NLEX’s thrust is Blackwater, which finally broke through the win column in its last game.
After opening their campaign with three straight losses, the Elite (1-3) won their game against Phoenix, 92-86, on Aug. 6, getting a major lift from new import Henry Walker, who had 32 points, 15 rebounds and five assists.
Not new to the game in the local pro league, having had previous stops in the PBA in the past, Mr. Walker did not waste much time proving his worth as a replacement for original import Trevis Simpson.
“Special thanks to our new import, who gave the inspiration for everybody for us to come out winners of this game,” said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac of Mr. Walker postgame.
“Going to the last nine minutes of the fourth quarter he was suffering from cramps so he was challenging the locals to take charge. Not being able to move properly, he was shouting at his teammates to ‘take the shot’ or ‘play defense.’ That’s a great sign of a proven winner, to challenge his teammates to be on top of the situation when he was not 100%,” the coach added.
Meanwhile, in the first game, Meralco looks to bounce back after absorbing its first defeat in the conference last time around against NLEX.
Import Allen Durham is bannering the Bolts with averages of 24.4 points, 18.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists.
Meralco, though, will be without guards Baser Amer and Mike Tolomia for some time as they play for the national team seeing action in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia.
On the part of Phoenix (2-3), it tries to wiggle out of a three-game losing skid following a strong start of 2-0.
Eugene Phelps is the top man with 27.6 points, 16 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the Fuel Masters, who are to play today with new players Jeff Chan and Dylan Ababou, two players they got in separate trades recently.