The seventh-seeded Bolts are just two days removed from booking a Final Four berth after twice beating No. 2 Phoenix Fuel Masters, including their do-or-die playoff on Friday which went into overtime, 108-103.
Counting their two wins in the quarterfinals, the Bolts have now won six games in a row and are looking to extend their hot streak in the 7 p.m. encounter with the Aces.
While the fatigue factor may work against his team, coach Norman Black has full confidence in the Bolts, who he said has been playing ‘determined and stubborn’ the past few games.
“I’m sure they’ll continue to do that,” said the Meralco mentor.
“I’ll try to manage them as much as I can in practice and make sure we have legs when we show up,” he added. “One day’s rest would normally be an advantage, I think Alaska would have one more day of rest than we have. That’s probably their advantage going into Game One of the series. We’ll see what happens.”
Meralco will continue to miss the services of big man Cliff Hodge as he recovers from a back injury.
“At some point he will play in the series. He’s a little bit sore right now. His back is sore and according to the doctors it should loosen up after a couple of days,” said Black of his prized power forward. “I don’t see him playing on Sunday, but I hope he will be back during the course of the series.”
While the Bolts have been battered and playing under pressure in their last six games – all of them are must-wins – the Aces cruised to the semis trouble-free after showing the door on powerhouse San Miguel Beer in their own quarterfinals series, 96-85.
Alex Compton, the Alaska coach, however, said the Aces need to play even better if they are to get past the Bolts, twice runner-up in the season-ending conference the past two years.
“Their import (Allen Durham) are so strong and so tough and they are playing so well. And my opinion has not changed at all and it’s been more solidified after watching the game tonight,” said Compton Friday night after watching the Meralco-Phoenix winner-take-all match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Compton also has some injury issue to address, with playmaker Chris Banchero yet to fully recover from the severe sprain ankle he suffered during the game against San Miguel.
Compton said the Fil-Italian guard is a game-time decision.
“It depends on how quickly he recovers,” said the Alaska coach of Banchero’s condition.