MERALCO hopes to make up for its size disadvantage behind a scrappy defense as it takes on second seed San Miguel Beer in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals on Saturday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The seventh-seeded Bolts seek to extend the matchup to a deciding game against the twice-to-beat Beermen, who boast the league’s best local big man in June Mar Fajardo.
“We probably have the smallest team in the league,” admitted Bolts coach Norman Black, whose tallest big man is retiring Danny Ildefonso at 6-foot-6, while Cliff Hodge, Reynel Hugnatan, Kelly Nabong and the rest of the team stand no taller than 6-foot-5.
Tipoff is at 5 p.m. in a showdown preceded by the No.3-6 pairing between twice-to-beat Rain or Shine and Barako Bull.
“We’ve had big problems against big guys and it showed (against Kia),” Black continued, referring to the Bolts’ 88-85 loss to the Carnival last Wednesday when Senegalese slotman Hamady N’Diaye scattered 24 points, 19 boards, and six blocks in 45 minutes.
“The big guys have been a problem for us the entire conference and we have another one coming up in June Mar Fajardo,” the multi-titled American tactician added.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo is the reigning league MVP and is poised to win a second successive top individual plum after standing at the forefront of the Beermen’s attack this conference.
The Bolts, though, tasted success against the Beermen this tournament as they tripped the second seeds, 106-95, in their elimination round meeting last month. It was the last time SMB lost before going on an eight-game winning streak that enabled them to be where they are.
“We just tried to help, double down as much as possible on June Mar whenever he gets the ball inside the paint and we just tried to focus on just closing out on their shooters with the hope they would not make their outside shots,” Black said. “That’s going to be the emphasis again.”
While Fajardo still managed to produce 22 points on 5-of-7 shooting, 16 boards, three assists, and one block in 46 minutes, AZ Reid was hardly at full strength that time as the SMB import was still recovering from a bum stomach. That limited him to just 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting, and eight boards against four turnovers in 38 minutes.
Now, Reid is back to the form that made him a two-time Best Import awardee.
“The wildcard is AZ Reid,” Black said. “He’s also a big problem that we also have to take into consideration.”
Black, though, has his own prolific American reinforcement he can count on in Andre Emmett, who leads the team in scoring (33.5), rebounding (10.6), assists (3.8), and steals (2.3), along with a defensive-minded bunch led by Sean Anthony and Hodge.