By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
AFTER finishing elimination play just last Sunday, the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup makes a short turnaround with the start of the quarterfinal round today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kicking off the proceedings are league-leading and defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings against the NLEX Road Warriors in the main game at 7 p.m. and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok versus Blackwater Elite in the opener at 4:30 p.m.
Having landed in the top four after the eliminations, the Kings and Hotshots carry a twice-to-beat advantage over their quarterfinal opponents.
Barangay Ginebra, the reigning back-to-back Governors’ Cup champion, is off its ousting of the TNT Ka Tropa on Sunday, a 112-93 victory that secured for the team solo tournament leadership with a 9-2 record.
Import Justin Brownlee was impressive in said victory, finishing with a triple-double of 31 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Big man Greg Slaughter also played well, finishing with 25 points, while Scottie Thompson came off the bench to tally 11 points and eight boards.
More than winning and getting solo first, Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone underscored in the postgame press conference that primary for them was heading into playoffs with much confidence, believing competition will only get tougher as the tournament goes deeper.
“We wanted to make sure we’re coming in with much momentum. It’s not about winning but more about getting ready for the playoffs,” said Mr. Cone.
NLEX (5-6), for its part, landed on eighth spot, losing some steam as the eliminations wound up following a 4-2 start in its first six games in the season-ending PBA tournament.
The Road Warriors lost to the also-rans Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 107-101, on Nov. 3, derailing their push to finish the classification on a high with what would have been back-to-back wins.
In their lone encounter in the elimination round on Oct. 5, the Kings beat the Road Warriors, 106-92, that saw five Barangay Ginebra players score in double digits, led by Mr. Brownlee.
Import Aaron Fuller led NLEX with a double-double of 20 points and 19 rebounds with Larry Fonacier adding 21 markers.
Finished in joint second along with two other teams with identical 8-3 cards, the Hotshots saw themselves drop all the way to fourth place because of a lower quotient.
Magnolia had its chance to land in the top two but its 93-86 loss to Barangay Ginebra on Oct. 28 clipped its thrust.
Leading the campaign of the Hotshots is import Romeo Travis with averages of 22.7 points, 15.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Paul Lee has been good for 17.3 points with Ian Sangalang and Mark Barroca adding 13 and 11 points per game, respectively.
Waiting for Magnolia in the quarters is Blackwater (7-4), a team looking to bounce back after being edged out for the final top-four spot just last Sunday by the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
Needing to beat Phoenix with whom it had a similar 7-3 record heading into the game, the Elite failed to deliver as they bowed, 97-91.
The loss relegated Blackwater to fifth place and now faces a twice-to-win disadvantage.
While losing leverage despite a promising start to the season, the Elite are still hopefully they get to rebound from their tough loss previously.
“I think all is not lost for us despite not getting a twice-to-beat advantage. Defense will be key for us in our next game,” said Blackwater coach Bong Ramos.
In their first encounter on Oct. 10, Magnolia was a runaway 133-99 winner over Blackwater.