by Jerome Lagunzad
Powerhouse Batangas City goes for the jugular while host Muntinlupa fights for its dear life tonight as the best-of-five Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Anta Rajah Cup titular showdown swings to the Muntinlupa Sports Center.
Tip off is at 7 p.m., with the fancied Athletics out to pick up from where they left off following a pair of big victories on their home floor at Batangas City Coliseum and the embattled Cagers expected to give it their all.
Momentum should be on the side of the Athletics, who have been taking full advantage of their deeper bench while outsteadying the Cagers down the stretch in their last two hardly-fought matches.
“Two good teams are battling it out. It’s just a matter of who wants it more and who is hungrier than the other, ‘yun ang mananalo,” said Batangas City coach Mac Tan, refusing to be lulled into any false sense of complacency.
“I keep on telling my players that as long as the job is not done yet, we don’t have anything to celebrate. I just hope ‘yung hardwork and intensity ng bawat isa, hindi mawala.”
While they appear inferior in terms of manpower, Muntinlupa coach Aldrin Morante remains confident that the Cagers can finally put one over the Athletics and keep their title hopes alive, with an expected raucous hometown crowd rallying them.
“‘Yung homecourt namin, ‘yun na lang ang pinaka-advantage namin du’n. Du’n na lang kami babawi,” he said. “‘Yung mga bata nakaka-proud kasi laban lang sila nang laban. Kaya ‘yung attitude tsaka puso, ‘yun na lang ang maipapakita namin.”
Former Jose Rizal University star Teytey Teodoro, who’s averaging 14.5 points in the first two matches, is tipped to lead the Athletics’ potent attack alongside former pros Val Acuña, Lester Alvarez and big man Jhaymo Eguilos.
Do-it-all forward Chito Jaime, the Cagers’ main source of offensive production, should double his efforts while vital cogs Allan Mangahas, Dave Moralde, Felix Apreku and Pari Llagas should provide more support if they intend to survive.