CALVIN Abueva is getting a stiff challenge from an upstart playmaker in his bid to win a second PBA Best Player of the Conference award.
The eccentric Magnolia forward kept his No. 1 spot in the race for the Philippine Cup BPC plum, but remains on the guard as TnT Tropang Giga rookie Mikey Williams continues breathing down on his neck close at No. 2.
Statistics released by the end of the first round of the playoffs showed Abueva accumulating a 36.4 statistical points total, while not far behind is Williams with 35.0 sps.
The two also showed the way in the individual rankings at the conclusion of the eliminations, and are expected to go further mano-a-mano as their respective teams advanced into the semifinals that kicks off on Sunday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym.
The top seeded Tropang Giga battle fourth seed San Miguel Beermen, while No. 3 Magnolia faces no. 2 Meralco in a pair of best-of-seven series.
Abueva, who won his first BPC title in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup while still with Alaska, has proven to be a catalyst in his first season with Magnolia, averaging all-around numbers of 15.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 block shots.
Like the ‘Beast,’ Williams is also a steady presence in TnT’s backcourt in his freshman season, submitting numbers of 17.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.2 steals to make a strong case for the Rookie of the Year honor.
Robert Bolick, the high-scoring guard of NorthPort, remained at No. 3 with 33.7 sps, but is expected to fall out from the race as the Batang Pier were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the San Miguel Beermen.
Ditto with Bolick teammate, rookie Jamie Malonzo, who occupies the seventh spot with a 30.2 total sps.
But just as there were who fell by the wayside, there were also those who climbed in the rankings.
Ian Sangalang benefited in the Hotshots’ deep run into the playoffs as he moved up at no. 4 with 32.3 sps. He previously was at no. 5, but rose in the rankings with averages of 16.8 points and 8.0 rebounds going to the semis.
Also making a run are the San Miguel trio of CJ Perez, Arwind Santos, and six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo.
Perez, the two-time scoring champion and consistent contender for the BPC plum, now occupies the fifth spot from no. 6 with 31.5 sps, followed by the 40-year-old Santos with 30.5 sps up from no. 8.
Fajardo meanwhile, finally made the jump in the Top 10 with a 29.8 sps after previously occupying the no. 12 spot.
Barangay Ginebra big man Christian Standhardinger and Jayson Perkins of Phoenix round out the Top 10, although the two are not expected to figure in the race as their respective teams already bowed out of contention.
The 6-foot-8 Standhardinger follows Fajardo at no. 9 with 29.5 sps, while Perkins is at 10th with 29.4 sps.
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