ALASKA braces for a dangerous KIA as both squads square off and try to maintain their places in the upper half of the Governors’ Cup standings on Friday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Coming off a stunning 113-102 loss to NLEX, the Aces seek to at least tighten their grip on third spot as they take on a team lurking behind them, the Carnival, who, Alaska coach Alex Compton believes, have transformed from giant killers to a real emerging force in the league.
“Without a doubt, Kia is a legitimate playoff contender,” said the American mentor, whose team has won four of their six games, just a half-game ahead of the Carnival. “We will have our hands full.”
Tipoff is at 4:15 p.m. in a match succeeded by a duel between second-running San Miguel Beer and the ninth-ranked Road Warriors.
What makes Kia, which is looking to bounce back from an 89-80 defeat at the hands of defending champion Star, a threat is its defense anchored on defensive Senegalese demon Hamady N’Diaye, who is averaging 5.4 blocks per game.
“Right now, KIA is the best defensive team in the league,” Compton said. “N’Diaye is a dominant force on defense.”
But it’s not only on defense that makes the Carnival tick. They also have a rookie coach in Chito Victolero, who has more than lived up to expectations by steering a young crop led by freshman playmaker LA Revilla and sophomore swingman Alex Nuyles, not to mention the significant support they get from Asian import Jett Chang.
“If I could vote for the best coach over the past two conferences, I’d vote for Chito Victolero,” Compton said. “He is doing a phenomenal job and they are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now.”
“And LA Revilla is playing like one of the best point guards in the entire PBA. Jet Chang has been a huge pickup for them and Alex Nuyles is really displaying his talent,” the Alaska coach added.
Compton, though, has his own stellar crew to be proud of and bannered by hardworking import Romeo Travis, a resurgent Cyrus Baguio, and the backcourt tandem of Jayvee Casio and Chris Banchero.