Alaska expects no cruise this time with semis berth at stake in knockout match against Meralco
Alaska coach Alex Compton expects a defensive battle between his Aces and the Meralco Bolts in their do-or-die encounter Sunday. Jerome Ascano

ALASKA may have blasted Meralco by 41 points in their lone face off during the PBA Philippine Cup elimination round.

But expect no repeat of it by Sunday when the two teams clash again in a knockout match for the right to make the semifinals of the season-opening conference.

Alaska coach Alex Compton said he’s prepared to see a more disciplined and resilient Meralco side to show up for the 5 p.m. encounter at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, far from the team the Aces routed on Halloween, 105-64.

“We know that our game versus Meralco in the eliminations is meaningless at this point. They are a better team. They are playing excellent basketball and they simply had an off night when we were playing our best,” said Compton.

The winner of the do-or-die encounter advances to the next round and face early semifinalist Rain or Shine.

The third seeded Aces moved over to the next phase of the quarterfinals after outlasting 10th seed NLEX, 82-78 on Wednesday.

On the other hand, Meralco rode on a fiery second half offensive to dethrone Purefoods, 77-65, the following day.

With the game carrying a no-tomorrow nature, Compton expects the game to be a defensive battle.

“Tomorrow (Sunday) will really be a defensive battle and I expect tremendous effort from both teams,” he said.

“It seems to be the identity of both Alaska and Meralco is that we play hard. I foresee discipline being crucial in the midst of the high energy and physical game.”

On the other hand, Meralco coach Norman Black said beating Purefoods won’t mean anything on Sunday if they fail to complete its mission in the quarterfinals.

“It was a huge, nice win over Purefoods, but the only thing that matters now is winning against Alaska and advancing to the semis, ” said Black, largely credited for the Bolts’ resurgence this conference since replacing Ryan Gregorio before the start of the season.

Undersized forwards Reynel Hugnatan, Cliff Hodge, Danny Ildefonso, and John Ferriols will try to man the frontcourt, hoping that their veteran smarts can keep Alaska’s double-double machine Calvin Abueva, Sonny Thoss, and Vic Manuel from wreaking havoc inside.

“It will be a tough task but that is the goal. We must keep them (Aces) off the offensive boards and it is important that we break their full court defensive pressure,” said Black.

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