I wonder, who among the PBA teams will enjoy a really Merry Christmas when the current the Philippine Cup 2020 winds up its bubble conference in Clark.
But definitely, defending champion San Miguel Beer, which was aiming for a 6th straight All-Filipino crown, will not be among the candidates after getting knocked out by the Meralco Bolts (described by coach Norman Black as his best Bolts team so far) in the quarter finals.
And as early as now, basketball fans are already talking about the need to infuse younger talents to the team after its ageing stars, playing without big man June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo, got knocked out in the quarterfinals.
So the PBA players, who are hoping to have a truly joyous and financially rewarding year, can only come from protagonists Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco, and other semifinalists TNT and Phoenix.
Without a doubt, the Gin Kings will be the top favorite to win another title for coach Tim Cone, with their souped-up line up, led by Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio, Scottie Thomson, Jeff Chan and Joe Devance. This is a team that has made a habit of beating the Bolts in three previous finals’ match ups.
Of course, Cone will never admit that his team can easily take care of Meralco. He has too much coaching savvy to take any opponent for granted, no matter what history says.
For his part, Meralco head coach Norman Black knows his team will be the underdog against Ginebra, never mind that the latter will not enjoy its usual live crowd advantage. But I have to agree, Black’s team has improved a lot, particularly with big man Raymond Almazan being able to match up against Aguilar.
Veteran Reynell Hugnatan and point guard Baser Amer are having a good season, while Norman’s son Aaron is showing he was not picked just because his father is coaching the team.
But in the end, Ginebra should be able yo finish this series in four games and advance to the finals. But no, I will not be betting on my own prediction as Meralco is certainly playing with more confidence now.
Now, let us talk about the other semifinal match between Phoenix and TNT, which I believe is the more evenly matched game. Phoenix got past Magnolia while TNT beat a rebuilding Alaska squad.
But more than the game itself, which I think can go either way and up to Game 5 at that, basketball fans actually will be looking at two individual players on both side—Calvin Abueva, who has been instrumental in his team’s march to the semifinals, and Ray Ray Parks of TNT.
Everyone knows that these two had a run in that involved Parks’ girlfriend, and it did not help that Parks denied recently that he and Abueva had made up.
I just hope Abueva has learned his lesson already and that no physical altercation erupts between the two in the semis.
Phoenix will rely on sharp-shooting Matthew Wright, big man Jason Perkins and RR Garcia, too, but it seems TNT may have have the edge in talent. Jayson Castro remains a premier point guard for TNT, with ample support from the likes of Roger Pogoy, Poy Erram, Ryan Reyes, and Troy Rosario, plus Parks, of course.
If Phoenix’s defense can contain TNT, their chances improve, but I believe, this is an even match, more than anything else.
Meanwhile, just a plug this Sunday, it will be ex-PBA player Fritz Gaston who will be our guest in our “THE SWAB,” the sports vlog we kicked off last Sunday with my co host Vivid Jay Gueco.
Please watch on YouTube, this Gaston episode and you will find it highly interesting.