MANILA, Philippines – One team is a semifinals first-timer with young, energetic stars eager to prove themselves. The other is a battle-tested championship contender tired of coming in second.
Who will prevail?
Rappler previews this exciting match-up between the Globalport Batang Pier and the Alaska Aces ahead of their best-of-7 semifinals series in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup. The series begins Monday, January 4, 7 pm at the Mall of Asia Arena. (SCHEDULE: 2016 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals)
Road to the semis
For Alaska, the semifinals came much earlier – albeit not easier – as they earned top seed and one of two slots that equates to an automatic semis berth.
The Aces quietly grinded their way to the top of the standings, finishing at 9-2. They more or less stayed consistent despite any struggles and, with a little bit of quotient luck, ended up skipping the quarterfinals altogether.
Globalport, on the other hand, seemingly found its stride this conference after a year of groping for identity and chemistry since the entry of 2014 top draft pick Stanley Pringle. He and his explosive backcourt partner Terrence Romeo have taken turns – and on good nights even tag-teamed – in leading the young Batang Pier squad.
Globalport wrapped up eliminations with a 7-4 record, good for 5th place and a much-needed twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, where they defeated Barako Bull in one game and overcame Barangay Ginebra in a controversial knockout match.
Keys to victory
Alaska certainly has the advantage down low. Globalport doesn’t have a big man to match up with veteran Sonny Thoss all game long. While Thoss is not as dominant as Greg Slaughter, he is definitely still a go-to option along with other post-up guys such as Vic Manuel.
The Aces’ suffocating defense will certainly be a huge advantage as well. How they stop the Batang Pier’s offensive weapons of Pringle and Romeo will dictate where this series will go.
On that note, the supporting cast around arguably the PBA’s best backcourt duo today needs to step up. Guys like Joseph Yeo, Jay Washington, Keith Jensen, and even rookie guard Roi Sumang, who can also get going offensively.
(READ: Mamaril sees Romeo, Pringle duo as Fast and Furious 2.0)
Veterans like Billy Mamaril and Doug Kramer will play a huge role in bringing the aggressiveness. They’ll like be tasked to guard Thoss alternately and bang bodies with anyone who tries to penetrate to the basket.
Globalport’s defense will be tested here not only because of Alaska’s deadly offensive arsenal, but also because the Aces are good at breaking down defenses.
And of course, as with any Alaska foe, it is always a huge challenge in itself to overcome the bulldozing mind games expert Calvin Abueva.
(READ: Romeo ignores Ginebra’s boos on his way to first PBA semis)
Abueva vs Romeo
Speaking of Abueva, there can’t be a Globalport vs Alaska without zeroing in on Gilas Pilipinas brothers Romeo and Abueva going at it. (READ: 5 memorable Gilas Pilipinas moments of 2015)
The two will face each other after teaming up for the national team just a few months ago,and while they have gone head to head since then in the eliminations – where Alaska dominated 123-104 – a best-of-7 series will be a different story.
It will be interesting to see how the two will react as both are good at riling up opponents and taking them out of their games.
Battle of the guards
The high-octane match-ups will likely occur in the backcourt. You’ve got JVee Casio, Chris Banchero and Cyrus Baguio taking on Romeo, Pringle and Yeo.
It will be exciting to see Romeo and the veteran Casio guarding each other. At the same time it will be compelling basketball watching Pringle work some of the new moves – especially in shooting – he learned over the past year against Alaska’s vets.
Who will win?
Despite the very real possibility of a Globalport upset win, I’m going with Alaska in 6 games.
The Batang Pier have been compared to the 2012 Powerade team that tore through the playoffs from upsetting the top seeded B-Meg led by Tim Cone and going all the way to the All-Filipino finals. But this Aces squad is loaded with experience and their defensive prowess should give them the edge. – Rappler.com
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