TWO of the country’s most athletic players engage in a battle of the boards as Alaska and Barangay Ginebra square off in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Calvin Abueva and Scottie Thompson have been playing bigger than their height and they try to keep doing so for the causes of their respective teams in the 6:45 p.m. matchup.
Thompson, standing a shade below 6’1”, is averaging a mind-boggling 10.4 boards a game – one of only four players to average double-digit rebounding in the tournament along with 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo, 6-foot-8 Raymond Almazan, and 6-foot-4 Sean Anthony.
The 6-foot-1 ½ Abueva, who is not far behind at fifth spot with nine caroms a game, is impressed by Thompson’s rebounding prowess.
“Wala naman tayong masasabi dun sa bata,” the Aces superstar said of the 23-year-old Thompson, who’s five years younger than Abueva. ”Masipag ang bata, magaling dumiskarte.”
“Pero syempre, gagamitin natin yung mga dapat nating gawin as a veteran,” he was quick to add. “Syempre hindi rin naman tayo magpapadaig sa kanya na kukuhanan na lang tayo ng rebound. Kailangan natin talaga i-box out.”
Gin Kings coach Tim Cone believes the respective outputs of Abueva and Thompson are going to be a barometer for both teams in the quarterfinal pairing.
“Calvin’s nickname is apt: he’s a beast, and Scottie, they’re not going to guard each other or they’re not going to really match up, but we need Scottie to do his thing and they certainly need Abueva to do his,” the champion coach said.
“They are key performers in this basketball game, no doubt,” he added.
The second-seeded Aces, though, are armed with a twice-to-beat advantage over the seventh-seeded Gin Kings, who lost to the Aces, 101-86, in their elimination-round meeting.
But Abueva has never taken the Gin Kings lightly as he’s extra motivated to play against the league’s most popular team and its crowd.
“Kailangan mo rin mag-focus,” Abueva said. “Sa eliminations, one-day preparation lang sila sa amin tapos ganun nangyari. Pero iba na ngayon. Mabuti na lang may advantage kami, pero syempre, hindi kami pwede (magpabaya). Kailangan pa namin ipursigi yung depensa namin.”
“Lagi lang sinasabi nila coach sa akin na, ‘Focus ka lang, kailangan ka namin dito mag-focus,’ kasi kailangan talaga namin gampanan yung trabaho namin ngayon na number two spot,” he added.