ALASKA and red-hot Petron Blaze dispute the solo leadership in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Still smarting from their first loss of the tournament, 68-75, at the hands of defending champion San Mig Coffee, the Aces (5-1) try to regain their bearings against the Boosters (5-1), winners of their last five outings, in the 7:30 p.m. game.
Aces coach Luigi Trillo is convinced that Petron is slowly but surely playing up to its potential.
“Watching them (Boosters) with (import Renaldo) Balkman, they’re just so great as a team. And they honestly do better when someone gets injured because they are just so deep and that gives other guys a chance to step up,” Trillo told Spin.ph.
Alex Cabagnot is expected to return from a three-game absence after spraining his right ankle during the team’s 105-90 win over sister team Barangay Ginebra on February 17.
Shooter Chris Lutz has been out of commission with a fractured rib and is expected to be back in about two weeks, according to Petron coach Olsen Racela.
Racela said he’s happy with how his team is doing thus far, but warned his players against falling into complacency.
“That’s (game versus Alaska) gonna be a good match-up for us and a good test for this team. We’ve accomplished something but of course, di pa naming nagagawa lahat. That’s the true test … I think that’s gonna be a gauge as far as how far we have come as a team,” Racela said.
Balkman has been a consistent source of energy and hustle for the Boosters this conference as evidenced by his 28.2 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 2.5 assists in his first six games.
“Rey can defend all positions from point guard to the center of any team not just in the PBA but even the NBA. He has great instinct that’s why we get a lot of interceptions. He’s our catalyst and our leader especially on defense. His energy and intensity has rubbed off on all the players,” said the Petron rookie coach.