BARANGAY Ginebra San Miguel shoots for its third straight win and the solo lead when it takes on unpredictable Meralco in the first out-of-town game of the PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday at the Sports, Cultural and Business Center in Digos City, Davao del Sur.
With numerous offensive weapons at their disposal that were on full display during a controversial 98-94 win over reigning Governors Cup champion Rain or Shine, the 2-0 Kings definitely enjoy the upperhand against the Bolts, something which coach Sito Tanquingcen doesn’t deny ahead of their 6 p.m. encounter.
“Blessing din to have great players who came up big. Kerby (Raymundo) was struggling during the third quarter (against Rain or Shine). Then si Mark (Caguioa) na yung pumasok and started scoring, then eventually LA (Tenorio) made the big plays. So it’s a blessing to be coaching players like that,” Tanquingcen said.
While Tenorio – the King’s new starting point guard - isn’t expected to score heavily due to the numerous offensive options of the team, the former Ateneo superstar took over the game against the Elasto Painters at a time when the Kings needed the lift.
Tenorio, who finished with 20 points, buried the go-ahead jumper before sinking two pressure-packed free throws in the dying seconds to seal the team’s second straight win.
The Gin Kings’ platoon of big and hardworking guys - Raymundo, Rico Maierhofer, Billy Mamaril and even athletic Fil-Ams in Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen - are expected to give match-up problems for Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio.
Meralco on the other hand, rode on the heady and aggressive plays of Fil-Am rookie Cliff Hodge in its 93-86 triumph against Alaska.
Then again Hodge, who led the team with 20 points and 11 rebounds, needs all the help he can get from Meralco’s undersized frontcourt led by Nabong, Jay-R Reyes and Reynel Hugnatan.
Gregorio reminded his boys to get used to playing without veteran Asi Taulava. The 6-foot-9 big man provided the inside presence for the team the past season, but opted to join the San Miguel Beermen in the Asean Basketball League during the offseason.
Without Taulava, Gregorio expects his locals to work hard together with Hodge and Nabong to compensate for the team’s lack of size.
“As far as Kelly, he’s probably a good pick for no. 17 (in the draft). He made an impact in the D-League with double-doubles. He’s got 11 rebounds (against Alaska), that’s fantastic," said Gregorio.
“So with the absence of Asi, it's really center by committee, sometimes it can be Jay-R, or Carlo (Sharma), sometimes Kelly. So we’ll take that anytime,” added Gregorio.
Meralco will still be without Fil-Am playmaker Chris Ross, who tore his right meniscus in practice a few days ago.
Paul Artadi and Sol Mercado are expected to alternate in the playmaking chores.