WITH the PBA Philippine Cup elimination round winding down to its final week, Alaska Milk guns for the all-important win that could assure the Aces of a spot in the crossover best-of-three series.
The Aces have put their five-game losing streak behind them, winning their last two contests against the Meralco Bolts (88-85) and Globalport (101-95) last week to resuscitate their bid for a better position entering the playoffs.
Alaska is currently tied with Meralco and Barangay Ginebra with similar 7-6 records and can go as high as No. 3 with a win, although that means overhauling Rain or Shine which currently sits at 8-5.
On the other hand, the Boosters, at 6-7, are in danger of dropping to No. 7 in the standings, which could mean a quarterfinal meeting with a twice-to-beat San Mig Coffee.
“One thing is sure, if we win, we’ll be in the best-of-three (quarterfinal series),” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo, whose team faces Petron for the second straight time this conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Trillo expects the Boosters to be a lot stronger than in the two teams' first meeting on October 19, which saw super rookie Calvin Abueva debut with 12 points and 16 rebounds in leading the Aces to an 88-86 win.
Petron has gone 3-1 in its last four games, showing signs that it is finally getting more comfortable playing under coach Olsen Racela following the team’s numerous transitions during the conference.
The Aces will have their hands full trying to contain the Boosters’ scorers led by Arwind Santos, who leads the league with 10 double-doubles this conference while averaging 18.08 points and 12.15 rebounds a game.
The Boosters also boast of Chris Lutz (15.46 ppg.), shifty guard Alex Cabagnot (12.38) and Jay Washington (9.69), while rookie center June Mar Fajardo will be facing Alaska starting center Sonny Thoss for the first time.
“I’m just worried about our rebounding because during our series of losses, we’ve been beaten in the rebounds. Though it’s a good thing we have Sonny and Sam (Eman) to match up with June Mar,” added Trillo.
Abueva spent a day in the hospital after being under the weather, although Trillo expects not only to play against Petron but also bring the energy once again for the Aces.