Champion Magnolia battles Meralco

Defending champion Magnolia begins its title-retention bid when it meets Meralco at 6:45 p.m. tonight in Season 44 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero charged his wards to build a strong momentum early in the tournament.

“We need to start strong because for the last two conferences we had a zero start,” Victolero told The Manila Times in a phone interview. “I gave them as much rest as possible and I hope they come back hungry with a renewed passion for the game.”

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Romeo Travis of Magnolia grabs a rebound during the finals of last year’s Season 43 PBA Governors’ Cup as Chris Banchero of Alaska looks on at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City. PBA MEDIA BUREAU PHOTO

Import Romeo Travis will lead the Hotshots supported by Paul Lee and Mark Barroca.

Victolero is wary of Meralco’s two-time Best Import Allen Durham.

“They play very well because Durham is providing good motivation to their local players. So we need to tighten up everything, the defense, and make sure that we are mentally tough,” he added.

Victolero is also expecting Ian Sangalang, Rafi Reavis, Aldrech Ramos, Jio Jalalon and veteran Peter June Simon to step up for the Hotshots.

The Bolts will also field in big man Raymond Almazan.

Meralco, under coach Norman Black, is eyeing redemption this conference after losing to Alaska in the semifinals of last year’s Governors’ Cup.

In the 4:30 p.m. first game, Phoenix Pulse parades returning import Eugene Phelps against Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) of coach Yeng Guiao.

The Fuel Masters have strengthened their line-up with new recruits RR Garcia and Devon Potts.

Matthew Wright, healed from injury, will return to the Fuel Masters’ line-up along with JC Intal, RJ Jazul and Jason Perkins.

NLEX is fortified with import Olu Ashaolu.

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