MERALCO tests the mettle of rejigged Phoenix as the PBA Governors’ Cup unfurls on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After coming up a win short of entering the Commissioner’s Cup finals, the Bolts open their campaign in the season-ending conference against a Fuel Masters side that retooled on the sidelines as well its roster with some coaching and a handful of player changes in the offseason.
“We just want to get off to a good start in this conference and at least match or surpass our performance last time out,” Bolts coach Norman Black said in a text message on the eve of the 4:15 p.m. matchup followed by the main game featuring Star and Mahindra.
The Bolts certainly carried their momentum in the preseason as they won all their six tune-up games behind bull-strong import Allen Durham.
“(They’re the) pre-tournament favorites daw,” new Fuel Masters coach Ariel Vanguardia told SPIN.ph after practice on Thursday. “Durham is the best import so far based on their tune-up games.”
The Bolts have been a force even without Asian import Mohammad Jamshidi, who was only set to arrive on Thursday night from Iran.
But Black played down the tag as other contenders have yet to field intact rosters due to injuires
“I’m not sure who the favorites are because there are a lot of injuries to key players in some of the top teams,” the veteran coach said. “Plus a lot depends on the performance of the imports.”
Meanwhile, Fuel Masters reinforcement Marcus Simmons has shone more on the defensive end in their scrimmages and looks to anchor a team led by Willie Wilson and Josh Urbiztondo along with new recruits Cyrus Baguio, Mark Cruz, Simon Enciso, and John Wilson, who all look to thrive under Vanguardia’s fast-paced offense.
“We have to look at not letting them (Bolts) dictate the pace, because they’re pretty good at what they’re doing,” Vanguardia said. “We have to think out of the box.”
After the Bolts-Fuel Masters duel, the Hotshots, led by Marqus Blakely, face James White and the Enforcers at 7 p.m.