MERALCO tries to accomplish what six other teams have failed to do so far in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup: Beat league-leader Petron.
The Bolts and the undefeated Boosters lock horn in Dipolog City, marking the first time a road game will be held this season dubbed 'Petron Saturday Special.'
Meralco will go into the 3:30 p.m. match at the Dipolog City Sports Complex armed with the distinction as the tournament’s giant-killer after inflicting fancied Barangay Ginebra its first loss in the All-Filipino,100-87, before knocking off Governors Cup champion San Mig Coffee in its last outing, 72-64, in a game that saw the team rally from an 18-point deficit.
Currently in the middle of the standings with their even 3-3 record, the Bolts hope to add the 6-0 Boosters to their list of victims.
But coach Ryan Gregorio admitted beating Petron will take a huge effort from his injury-depleted squad, considering the Boosters now have guards Alex Cabagnot and former Meralco stalwart Chris Ross back in the lineup.
“Six teams have failed. They (Boosters) won games when they were depleted. They are more dangerous now that they are complete,” admitted Gregorio, whose team is still expected to miss forwards Kerby Raymundo and Cliff Hodge.
“We have to bring out whatever we can muster to have a chance against the rampaging Petron Boosters.”
Gregorio said speed again serves as the team’s trump card against the Boosters, who have been relying heavily on fast-rising center June Mar Fajardo.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore passed his test in his first match-up against one-time league MVP Asi Taulava when he logged 13 points, 16 rebounds, and three block shots in Petron’s 90-88 win over Air21 on Wednesday.
The former University of Cebu stalwart is averaging career-highs of 15.0 points, 17.1 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks this season, making him the main man to watch for the Boosters, according to Gregorio.
“Fajardo is a match-up problem especially with our small and depleted frontline rotation. But we've won games despite our short ceiling by using our quickness,” said the Meralco coach.
“That is how we intend to compete against them. Quickness will be our weapon to compensate for our weakness in height and length,” added Gregorio.
On the other hand, Petron coach Gee Abanilla said despite the team’s 6-0 start, the Boosters are still in the process of trying to get everyone on the same page, especially with Cabagnot and Ross just rejoining the team the past few days.
“We are trying to brace ourselves for a very tough Meralco team. We’re still trying to get everybody on the same page and work on our fluidity. But for sure, we want to be the best that we could be and play to our potential,” said Abanilla.