ALASKA and Meralco dispute the solo lead in the PBA Philippine Cup when the two unbeaten teams collide in a key match-up Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Both squads currently carry similar 2-0 records, along with idle San Miguel Beer to lead the 12-team field.
The 4:15 p.m. match marks the first time Luigi Trillo will be facing the same Alaska franchise he led to the Commissioner’s Cup title two seasons ago.
Trillo is now with the Bolts serving as deputy to head coach Norman Black.
The Aces are coming off a scintillating 100-98 victory over Talk ‘N Text last Tuesday behind Calvin Abueva’s career-high performance capped by his game-winning floater at the buzzer.
The 6-foot-1 Abueva banged in 26 points on top of 22 rebounds in a monster output he dished off at the expense of the Tropang Texters’ frontline led by Kelly Williams, Rob Reyes, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Jay Washington.
Still, Alaska coach Alex Compton refused to be carried away by the team’s emotionally-charged win, saying Meralco has ‘blue-collar players’ who can get the job done.
“I have really high opinion of coach Norman. I think they might be the blue-collar team in the league because they put on their hard hat and they do the work, they play so hard every game,” Compton said in describing the Bolts, who are coming off tough overtime wins over Barako Bull 112-108 (2OTs), followed by an 83-75 beating of expansion franchise Blackwater.
Black considers the Alaska game as the team’s ‘biggest test for the conference.’
“Alaska has shown its strength by taking out Purefoods and TnT. This will be our biggest challenge so far this conference,” said Black, the 11-time champion coach.
Abueva’s high-energy game will be put to test against Fil-Am forward Cliff Hodge, who has also been sensational in the Bolts’ first two games this season.
The 6-foot-4 Hodge is averaging 18 points and 17 rebounds for Meralco, and providing the defensive presence and energy off the boards for Black.