DEFENDING champion Petron Blaze has most of its missing pieces already in place and that is what worries Meralco coach Paul Ryan Gregorio when the Boosters and the Bolts lock horns in the PBA Governors Cup at 4:30 pm at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.
Certainly, the Boosters have become stronger with Jay Washington and Chris Lutz back from injury and Dorian Pena returning from Barako Bull.
The Boosters have made the proper calibrations prior to the start of the tournament to ensure that they will have a decent chance at defending the championships they won against great odds last season.
Actually, the Boosters would have been a tougher foe if Dondon Hontiveros is already around. But Hontiveros is still recuperating from knee surgery.
And Petron would have been very solid if super Marcio Lassiter did not suffer a fractured hand in a tune-up game against Rain Or Shine leading to the current conference.
Petron had finally acquired Lassiter from Powerade in a trade which included Celino Cruz (then sent to Barako Bull) in exchange for Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Rey Guevarra and Lordy Tugade.
Going up against Petron Blaze has admittedly made Gregorio a bit worried especially because it’s part of a “killer stage” so to speak.
But because Meralco is coming off a breakthrough 105-99 triumph over Talk N Text three days ago, somehow that victory has inspired the Bolts notwithstanding the fact that the Tropang Texters were five superstars short in that match. After all, that was the very first win of Meralco over Talk N Text since joining the PBA.
“I am a person who always looks at the positive side of things. We have a tough schedule as after Talk N Text, we play Petron, Ginebra and B-Meg. It’s a tough sked but we will be focused against Petron first,”” said Gregorio
After Petron, Meralco faces the Gin Kings at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City next Saturday and then goes up against Commissioner's Cup titlist B-Meg .
Eddie Basden showed everyone semblances of what he really can do as he had a good debut for Petron as he put together 28 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
He drew strong support from Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos. Cabagnot finished with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists while Santos was good for 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Lutz played 41 minutes and had six points, three rebounds, five assists and a steal. Washington saw action for 17 minutes and registered four points and an assist.
Petron coach Renato Agustin said he did not lengthen Washington’s playing time in their first game but added that “He is already in tiptop shape.”
Washington missed the Finals of last season’s Governors' Cup and the entire Philippine Cup and Commissioner's Cup because of a foot injury.
Meralco brought back Champ Oguchi after Devin Green and Juan Patillos measured over the height limit of 6-5. Against Talk N Text, Oguchi finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Gregorio will continue to bank on Mark Cardona, Sol Mercado, Chris Ross, Asi Taulava and Reynell Hugnatan.
Against Talk N text, Mercado came off the bench and sparked a second quarter rally that gave the Bolts the lead, 54-54 after trailing for most parts of the first half. Mercado finished with 24 points, six rebounds, an assist and two steals. Cardona added 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
But it was Hugnatan who proved very steady as he came through with a double-double (12 points and 12 rebounds).
“We’ll see what we can do. We’ve already won against Talk N Text. We’ll try to get through this killer stage,” said Gregorio.(BP)