STREAKING BARANGAY GINEBRA BATTLES STA. LUCIA

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STREAKING BARANGAY GINEBRA BATTLES STA. LUCIA




SMB takes on Alaska with eye on semis spot

It’s hard to tell if Barangay Ginebra could make it among the top two of the 2009 Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference elims.

At this point anything is possible. The door of opportunity remains wide open for the defending champion Kings, more so if they could keep the win streak going.

After a 1-6 start that included five consecutive losses, the Kings somehow picked up their rhythm, enabling to stay in the hunt for an outright semifinal berth.

A surprise mid-conference trade with Burger King that sent athletic wingman Cyrus Baguio and reserve center Homer Se to the Kings and replacing Rod Nealy in favor of the youthful David Noel turned around the fortunes of the defending champs, who just seven weeks ago, appeared to be holding on to a dark future.

“It looks like we hit the right combination. But it’s still a long way. We still have a lot of work to do. I just hope we could sustain this (streak) … it’s just a matter of keeping our focus,” said Ginebra coach Jong Uichico.

So far, the Kings have won four in a row and a fifth one Friday night would move them within reach of the No. 2 spot.

From the looks of it, the possibility is encouraging with Sta. Lucia Realty expected to show up in its scheduled 7:30 p.m. date with Barangay Ginebra at the Araneta Coliseum without Kelly Williams and Bitoy Omolon for the third straight game.

“I can’t deny that we missed the presence of Kelly and Bitoy,” confessed Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez.

And with Ryan Reyes, who also missed Wednesday game – a 79-88 loss against Coca-Cola -- a doubtful starter again due to a strained muscle in the neck, Fernandez said his troops are up for another topsy-turvy evening.

Already, the Realtors (6-5) have lost two straight games and three of their last four. No doubt, the unexpected turn of events are taking its toll on the Realtors.

Williams, the reigning MVP who fell sick in the middle of the All-Star week, was diagnosed with a blood disorder and may be out for the rest of the season while Omolon is sidelined by chicken pox.

Not having their three stars, Fernandez said, will not be an excuse.

“It will not be a reason for us to give up. This will be a chance for my other players to step up and prove that we can win without them,” he stressed.

Apparently, that’s a concern for Uichico and he hopes his players realize it sooner than later. Just in case the Kings forgot, the Realtors dealt them one of their five consecutive defeats – 76-80 last March 11.

“We can’t let our guard down just because they (Realtors) are incomplete,” Uichico said.

Leader San Miguel Beer, for its part, tries to get back on the winning track when it takes on Alaska is the 5 p.m. opener.

The Beermen had its eight-game winning streak snapped on Saturday – a 78-82 loss against Rain or Shine in Tacloban City – but a repeat against the Aces would cement their place in the semifinals. SMB defeated Alaska, 93-84, last March 4.

The Aces (4-7) are coming off an 88-106 loss to Burger King last Sunday.

“Right now, we're just working to get ourselves right and ready for the playoffs. Playing the first place team will battle-harden us. Our goal is forward-looking: make sure we're playing well at the right time, the playoffs,” said Alaska coach Tim Cone. (DBC)


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