By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
TOP-FLIGHT teams Blackwater Elite and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok test each other today in their 7 p.m. Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup tussle at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Both right smack of a winning run that has them flying high in the season-ending PBA tournament, the second-running Elite (6-1) and currently third Hotshots (5-1) gun for the victory to keep their respective streaks going and fortify their spot in the top four that will have them a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Preceding the main game today is the battle between the Phoenix Fuel Masters (5-2) and NLEX Road Warriors (4-3) at 4:30 p.m.
Blackwater has won in two in a row after absorbing its first defeat of the season.
Its last victory was over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 99-93, on Oct. 7, that had the Elite proving tough in the end en route to bagging the win.
The Elite showcased a balanced attack versus the Elasto Painters with five players finishing in double figures, led by Mike DiGregorio with 17 points and Nards Pinto adding 16.
Import Henry Walker had a triple-double of 14 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists. Allein Maliksi and Paul Zamar were the two other Elite players in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
While they padded their push for the playoffs with the victory, Blackwater coach Bong Ramos said they are not thinking of the next round just yet and taking it a game at a time.
“We’re not thinking of the playoffs yet. For us it’s one game at a time and continue improving our game,” he said following their victory.
Their 6-1 start is the best for the Elite in franchise history.
The Hotshots, meanwhile, have racked three straight victories and have been steady of late.
They are off a 113-95 victory over the Columbian Dyip on Oct. 3 as they dominated from wire-to-wire.
Import Romeo Travis had a near triple-double of 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead Magnolia to its third win in a row.
Mark Barroca finished with 16 while Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang had 13 and 11 points, respectively.
“We need to finish (the elimination round) strong. This (win over Columbian) is a testament to our defensive mindset. We need to have that best effort regardless of who we face. I’m proud of my players because they were able to do that for the entire 48 minutes in this game,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero following their win over winless Columbian (0-8).