THE top two teams at the end of the elimination round set aside their affinity with their quarterfinal foes as they seek an early entry to the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
San Miguel Beer and Meralco take on sister squads Star and NLEX, respectively, looking to make full use of their twice-to-beat advantages on Monday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
There will be no love lost for the meantime, especially for lower-seeded sides Road Warriors and the Hotshots, who are eager to stay alive and force a sudden death.
“Walang sister-sister teams dun,” Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez said ahead of their 4:15 faceoff against the Bolts. “Patayan yun.”
NLEX dealt Meralco one of its three losses in the elimination round, a 104-99 decision last March.
“We know we can match up,” Fernandez said. “The only difference is who will execute better in the end.”
Al Thornton leads the Road Warriors along with locals Sean Anthony and Asi Taulava against a Bolts side parading dominant counterpart Arinze Onuaku and locals Chris Newsome and Jared Dillinger.
In the other pairing, the Beermen remain the odds-on favorites after they thrashed the Hotshots, 117-98, in their eliminations meeting.
The San Miguel Corp. teams square off once again at 7 o’clock.
“We won’t take Star lightly dahil alam natin they have the momentum,” SMB coach Leo Austria said after the Hotshots aced their do-or-die game against Mahindra last Friday.
Tyler Wilkerson, the Best Import race frontrunner, banners a powerhouse SMB side that also has Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, and Arwind Santos, not to mention recovering superstar June Mar Fajardo.
“They’re a very good team,” Wilkerson said of the Hotshots. “We got to come out focused and start the game out right, set the tone, and get them out there quickly. “
The Hotshots, after all, are also hardly lacking in star power with Marc Pingris, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, and emergent young guns Allein Maliksi and Mark Cruz providing support to import Ricardo Ratliffe.
“Even if we’re at this disadvantage, at least we’re still there, fighting,” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said.