THE TnT Tropang Giga play the Blackwater Bossing in the resumption of play in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday. — PBA IMAGES

Triple-header opens in Pampanga

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) resumes action in the All-Filipino tournament on Wednesday with a triple-header opening the return at the Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVSU) in Bacolor, Pampanga.

After a month of stoppage to heed government directives after cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), particularly the Delta variant, rose in Metro Manila, the PBA is now proceeding with the elimination round of the Philippine Cup and looking to stay the course all the way to crowning a champion.

Three matches are on tap as the resumption begins, with the TnT Tropang Giga (3-0) taking on the Blackwater Bossing (0-4) in the 12:30 p.m. contest, followed by the San Miguel Beermen (3-1) against Terrafirma Dyip (0-4) at 3 p.m. League-leading Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok (4-0) face off with the Meralco Bolts (4-1) in the final match at 6 p.m.

Commissioner Willie O. Marcial expressed hope that their return will proceed with little hiccups as possible so they can finish the eliminations on schedule — targeted for Sept. 19 — and then the playoffs after.

The PBA Philippine Cup opened on July 16 with games held at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. Action was stopped after matches on Aug. 1 as Metro Manila was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

The league spent the next weeks looking for areas which could hold its games, eventually finding a willing host in Pampanga, which is under a less strict Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) setup.

The resumption of play will be conducted under a “semi-bubble” environment, with player and team movements limited to hotel-game venue-hotel.

All the competing teams have been in different parts of Pampanga since last week to prepare for their return to action.

As per the protocols approved by the national and provincial government of Pampanga, Mondays are set for RT-PCR tests, with the results expected to come out the next day, while antigen testing of all the teams will be conducted in the morning of each play date.

In the tournament return, games will be played from Wednesday to Sunday, with triple-headers set for Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and double-headers on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Other teams seeing action are the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (4-2), NLEX Road Warriors (2-2), Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (2-2), Alaska Aces (2-3), Northport Batang Pier (1-3), and Phoenix Fuel Masters (1-4).

Meanwhile, Matthew Wright, Christian Standhardinger, and Jayson Castro, top performers in key individual categories prior to the tournament halt, look to extend their solid play in the resumption of action.

Phoenix’s Mr. Wright is the league’s top scorer, averaging 19.8 points in five games.

The Fuel Masters actually have two of the top scorers in the season-opening tournament so far, with teammate Vic Manuel right behind Mr. Wright with an 18.8-point average.

Completing the top five scorers are Kevin Alas of NLEX (18.5 points), Northport’s Robert Bolick (18.3), and Stanley Pringle of Barangay Ginebra (18.3).

Mr. Standhardinger, meanwhile, tops rebounding with 13 boards per outing in four matches with his new team Barangay Ginebra.

Coming in at second is Terrafirma sophomore Roosevelt Adams, who is averaging 10.7 rebounds, followed by TnT’s Troy Rosario (10.7) at no. 3.

Barangay Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson is fourth with 10.3 rebounds, with Alaska big man Yousef Taha fifth with 9.6 boards per game.

In assists, it is Mr. Castro who is showing the way with 6.7 dimes in three matches for TnT.

Kiefer Ravena of NLEX is at second spot with 6.5 per game, followed by Mr. Bolick with six assists per game. Tied at fourth spot are the trio of LA Tenorio (Barangay Ginebra), Chris Ross (San Miguel), and Mark Barroca (Magnolia), all with an average of 5.5 assists, while Chris Newsome of Meralco makes it at no. 5 with 5.4.