by Jonas Terrado
Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. – NorthPort vs Meralco
7 p.m. – Phoenix vs San Miguel
The Phoenix Fuel Masters could legitimize their growing reputation as a potential title contender if they beat the struggling San Miguel Beermen tonight in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Phoenix goes for its seventh win in nine games in the match set at 7 p.m. as it aims to enhance its bid to secure a top four finish given to the top four teams after the elimination round of the season-ending conference.
Coach Louie Alas’ squad carries a superior record over the Beermen, who are unusually in survival mode with a 2-4 record marred by three consecutive defeats.
June Mar Fajardo’s absence due to an injured right shin has clearly affected San Miguel’s play this conference but Alas still sees them as a team still capable of preventing Phoenix from taking another major step.
Meeting in the 4:30 p.m. opener are Meralco and NorthPort, teams looking to score their second win and keep slim hopes of making the quarters.
Meralco has lost five straight after winning its opening assignment while NorthPort ended a 0-6 start Saturday by frustrating Columbian Dyip behind a massive fourth quarter onslaught.
Scoring a win over the Beermen puts the Fuel Masters in a good position to claim a top four, with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on top at 7-1 and Magnolia in second at 6-1.
Magnolia, behind new dads Paul Lee and Jio Jalalon, frustrated Blackwater, 133-99, Wednesday at the Cuneta Astrodome. The Elite fell to a tie for fourth with the Fuel Masters at 6-2.
Fuel Masters import Eugene Phelps, who is coming off a 51-point performance two nights ago with a 123-97 rout of NLEX also at Cuneta, is expected to once again provide the needed production against the Beermen.
Phelps is averaging 32.8 points, 17.4 rebounds and 2.9 blocks this conference.
Meanwhile, Blackwater management has appointed former PBA coach Ariel Vanguardia as sports consultant and alternate governor of the Elite in the league’s board of governors.
The 46-year-old Vanguardia will help the franchise in both basketball and management decisions. He last called the shots for Phoenix Fuel in the PBA.
Team owner Dioceldo Sy made the confirmation.
Vanguardia took over from the position previously held by Wilbert Loa. (With report from Waylon Galvez)