Doubtful starter

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014


MANILA—Defending champion Talk ‘N Text and erstwhile solo leader Petron Blaze will try to keep their hopes of earning a twice-to-beat edge alive when they face separate foes in the 39th Philippine Bas ketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup elimination round today at the Araneta Coliseum.

After a long 10-day rest, Petron Blaze will surely look fresh as it battles Barako Bull at 8 p.m., while Talk ‘N Text faces cellar dweller Air 21 Express at 5:45 p.m.

But coach Gee Abanilla of Petron asked his players to continue stepping up for the possible absence of 6’10” Cebuano slotman June Mar Fajardo.

The big man remains a doubtful starter in today’s game as he is still recuperating from a knee injury.

“We have a lot of respect for Barako Bull. They are a strong team,but we may still miss June Mar (Fajardo). Although he already reported to practice with the team and has shown improvement from his injury, we don’t want to force him to return. Our next four games are very critical for us. I just hope the rest of the team will step up,” said Abanilla.

Abanilla’s Blaze Boosters survived a gruelling 105-91 win over Talk ‘N Text  on Dec. 28 in their last game in 2013. The team was powered by Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos, Chris Lutz and Alex Cabagnot, who combined for 72 points in that game.

Even the 6’3” guard Lassiter, a fourth overall pick by Powerade in 2011, expressed optimisim in their game against the Energy Cola, whomthey crushed, 96-90, in their first meeting on Dec. 4. Barako Bull is currenly locked in a five-way logjam from fifth to ninth spot with Globalport, Alaska, Meralco and San Mig Coffee with similar 4-7 win-loss records each.

“We still have to play the same way we did against Talk ‘N Text. Despite the absence of June Mar, we are deep. We can put up a lot of points. We just have to remain agressive,” said Lassiter.

Petron is currently toting an 8-2 win-loss slate for solo second just half a game behind Ginebra, which is bearing a 9-2 card. A win by the Blaze Boosters today will enable them to regain a share of the top spot, but just half a game ahead over third front-running Rain or Shine (8-3) and two wins up over the Tropang Texters (7-3).

Coach Norman Black’s Tropang Texters are also expected to have an easy sailing against Air 21 Express, whom they trounced (87-82) in their first encounter last Dec. 22. Air 21 is in the verge of an earlyvacation with just a 2-9 record.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 08, 2014.

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