By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

THE Blackwater Elite return to PBA Philippine Cup action on Tuesday after a two-week break because of coronavirus concerns, taking on the defending champions San Miguel Beermen in the opener at 10 a.m. of a quadruple-header offering at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga.

Last played on Oct. 22 before the league decided to ground the team after one of its players tested positive for the coronavirus, later ruled a “false positive” case following negative results from confirmatory tests, the Elite look to resume their bid in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament where they are sporting a 2-3 record, good for eight place in the 12-team field.

Blackwater coach Nash Racela shared that their inactivity was “tough”, but that they tried to make do with what they were presented with to stay the course both physically and mentally, and now they are ready to do battle once again.

In their last game, the Elite lost to league-leading TNT Tropang Giga, 109-96.

They trailed TNT for much of the contest en route to slumping to their second straight defeat.

Don Trollano led the way for Blackwater in said game, finishing with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Mac Belo had 16 points and eight rebounds while Mike Tolomia wound up with 12 points.

Days after the game, it was made known that one of the Elite’s players tested positive for the coronavirus.

He was immediately extracted from his room at the Quest Plus Hotel inside Mimosa, which is part of the PBA “bubble,” and taken to the quarantine facility in the Athlete’s Village in Capas, Tarlac, for observation.

The player then went through antigen and reverse transcription polymerase reaction (RT-PCR) testing to confirm the previous result.

While the results were being awaited, the Blackwater team, and TNT, were asked to isolate themselves as a precautionary measure, leading to some of their games being postponed.

The results of the confirmatory tests of the player later on yielded negative, ruling him false positive, or “when someone does not have the coronavirus, tests positive for it.”

But as part of the league protocols, he was still asked to stay in the quarantine facility.

Heading into Tuesday’s game, the Blackwater team, and the rest of the PBA squads, tested negative in the league’s latest cycle of swab tests.

In their return, waiting for the Elite are the streaking Beermen (4-2), winners of their last three games.

Despite not having key cogs June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo because of injuries, San Miguel is now in the swing of things after a slow start, riding largely on the efforts of its champion core of Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross as well as big man Mo Tautuaa.

The latest of the Beermen’s wins came on Oct. 28 at the expense of the Meralco Bolts, 89-82.

The Blackwater-San Miguel matchup sets the stage for a busy day for the PBA, where it will be staging the first of a series of quadruple-header offerings.

The league move was to make up for the lost play dates since Oct. 30, when it decided to postpone all matches as it fine-tuned its coronavirus protocols in collaboration with the government, and for PBA to stay on track of finishing the elimination round by Nov. 11. 

Also on tap today are the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters (4-3) against Terrafirma Dyip (0-5) at 1 p.m., Northport Batang Pier (1-4) against TNT (5-1) at 4 p.m., and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (4-2) versus the Alaska Aces (5-3) at 6:45 p.m.

Quadruple-headers are also slated on Nov. 4, 6, 8, and 11 while triple-headers are set for Nov. 5 and 9.