San Miguel makes strong case for outright semis berth as it battles unpredictable Meralco five
San Miguel coach Leo Austria will have the benefit of a full frontcourt lineup against Meralco with the return of big man Doug Kramer from a sprained ankle. Jerome Ascano

STREAKING San Miguel Beer looks to solidify its grip for one of the top two semifinals slots when the Beermen take on dangerous Meralco Bolts in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen are eyeing for their fifth straight win and eighth overall in their 7 p.m. match up against the Bolts (4-4).

Coach Leo Austria is aware losing to Meralco could easily dampen the team’s chance for one of two automatic semifinals berths considering several teams are bunched up with the Beermen in the upper half of the standings.

“That’s (Meralco) a very important game for us dahil puwedeng maging ticket na namin ito for the top 2,” said Austria, whose charges shredded the Globalport Batang Pier, 95-69 last Wednesday.

The Beermen will be going to the match now in full strength following the return of back-up big man Doug Kramer from a sprained ankle that sidelined him the past three weeks.

The 6-foot-5 Kramer played briefly in the team’s 26-point ripping of the Batang Pier, contributing two points and three rebounds.

Rico Maierhofer has been slowly reintroduced too, to the Beermen’s the rotation the past week.

Austria said the Beermen have prepared a specific game plan that would try to prevent Meralco gunners like Gary David, Jared Dillinger, and Mark Macapagal from getting their points from the outside.

“We know this game isn’t going to be easy because Meralco is also eyeing a slot in the 3 to 6 seeds para may twice-to-beat din sila, so we will have to exert effort on defense sa wingmen nila,” he added.

The Bolts pulled off a gigantic 109-99 upset of Barangay Ginebra Kings last week, before bowing to defending champion Purefoods in Binan, Laguna, 77-74.

Meralco won’t have starting power forward Reynel Hugnatan due to a suspected knee sprain, leaving veterans John Ferriols and Danny Ildefonso to hold the fort in the front line against San Miguel star center June Mar Fajardo.

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