After the short PBA quarterfinal round was completed last Thursday, old acquaintances and familiar faces are scheduled to meet each other for the right to advance to the finals.
The first pairing will involve Coach Tim Cone and the fifth seeded Barangay Ginebra San Miguel who will face top seed Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, who are suddenly rediscovering what a resurgent James Yap can do.
It will be recalled that Yap and Cone are the main architects of five championships for the Purefoods/B-Meg/San Mig franchise, including a grandslam.
Since parting ways with the franchise, Cone bagged two championships with the Gin Kings while Yap has yet to reach his first finals with the Elasto Painters.
Last Thursday, Yap carried the Painters against the GlobalPort Batang Pier to the semis, scoring 27 points including seven triples that tied his career high, to end the Batang Pier’s upset intentions.
In an interview Yap said it be joyful to beat Ginebra because of its throng of fans. Rain or Shine was leading the elimination round due to the steady plays of their import Reggie Jackson, Gabe Norwood, Raymond Almazan, and his heir apparent Chris Tiu.
Ginebra legend Mark Cagiuoa now relishes his role as the leader of the Kings in the sidelights and lets import Justin Brownlee and his younger teammates, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter and LA Tenorio, among others, dominate the action in hoping to return to the finals after not doing do in the Philippine Cup.
Ginebra and Rain or Shine met a total of eight times in a playoff game or series. The head-to-head count is knotted at 4-all. They last met at this year’s Philippine Cup Quarterfinals where Barangay Ginebra swept the best of three series to advance.
Meanwhile, two of the oldest teams in the league will face-off as second seed Alaska Aces are set to face the dangerous San Miguel Beermen in the other pairing.
The two teams have met in three finals in the last four years where the Beermen walloped the Ace in all face-offs, including a historic 2016 Philippine Cup.
The Beermen overcame a 0-3 deficit in that series, the only team in PBA/NBA history to achieve such feat, to bag their eighth All Filipino crown.
San Miguel also took the 2015 Philippine Cup via a 4-3 series victory and the 2015 Governors’ Cup via a 4-0 sweep.
Alaska Head Coach Alex Compton must be tired of the Beermen ending his championship aspirations and relishes the chance to end the SMB domination this conference.
The Aces have been playing well this conference with BPC leading candidate Vic Manuel, Chris Banchero, and JV Casio leading the charge, although it is still to be seen what effect would returning import Diamon Simpson, who has taken over from Antonio Campbell, and the suspension of Calvin Abueva have.
On the other hand, Coach Leo Austria has probably the best first five among the semifinalists in four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Renaldo Balkman to count on to keep their grandslam hopes alive.
San Miguel Beer and Alaska met a total of nine times in the finals, starting at the 1987 Reinforced Conference, where San Miguel holds the slightest of edges, 5-4.
The Beermen stormed off the gates last night to take game one, 92-79, and draw first blood in their best of five semifinals series.
Fearless forecast: Both series should a long one, could be in five but probably four, and the San Miguel teams will meet for the Commissioners’ Cup diadem.
By: ARMANDO BOLISLIS