THEY were two of the PBA’s top point guards who played with and against each other several times in the nineties.
Now, Boyet Fernandez and Gerry Esplana meet anew inside the court, but this time on the sidelines as coaches of San Beda and Emilio Aguinaldo College, respectively, in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Fernandez’s Red Lions aim for the provisional lead, while the Generals of Esplana seek to stay within striking distance of the last Final Four spot as both teams collide on Saturday at The Arena in San Juan.
Tipoff is set at 6 p.m.
The defending champions Lions are seeking a 10th victory in 12 games that would put them half-a-game ahead of archrival Letran, even as the Generals try to get to an even 6-6 win-loss card in a bid to move just half-a-game behind fourth-running San Sebastian.
The Golden Stags, who sport a 6-5 win-loss card, seek to solidify hold of the last Final Four spot as they take the court two hours earlier against a slumping Mapua side that’s trying to snap a nine-game slide and gain an elusive second victory in 12 games.
Fernandez, the former Sta. Lucia Realtor who is in his first season as coach of the three-time defending champion Lions, is pleased with the direction the Generals are heading to under the watchful eyes of his former teammate in Esplana, whose best years in the PBA was spent while playing for Formula Shell.
“I’m happy for Gerry. He’s been turning his team to a different team,” Fernandez said. “They’re playing really well and they have a good chance of making the Final Four, so it will be a tough game for us.”
Last season, the Generals had a sluggish 2-7 win-loss start that negated their solid 6-3 record in the second round and left them barely short of the playoffs.
Now, they have won four of their last five games and are tied in fifth place with Jose Rizal University as a semifinal berth is clearly within its reach this time.
“Our fate is still in our hands unlike before na nagdadasal ka sa nilalaro ng ibang teams,” said Esplana, whose Generals are hoping to ride the momentum of a stunning 70-68 victory over title contender University of Perpetual Help.
“Magandang motivation ‘to,” said Esplana, whose team lost a 65-80 decision to San Beda in the first round. “If you remember, dikit lang nung halftime nung last game. We’ll just do our best and have fun and hopefully, mabiyayaan ulit.”