Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) goes for a 3-0 start when it battles Magnolia while Calvin Abueva debuts for Phoenix in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 43 Governors’ Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Phoenix coach Louie Alas told The Manila Times through a phone interview on Tuesday that the 6’4 Abueva is going to play against Columbian Dyip in their 4:30 p.m. encounter to be followed by a 7 p.m. game between the unbeaten Road Warriors and Magnolia.
After being suspended for nearly four months by former team Alaska because of absence without official leave, the rugged Abueva was shipped to the Fuel Masters last August 7 through a trade for Karl Dehesa plus a 2019 first round pick.
Abueva will be playing for his new team after six years with the Aces.
But Alas is a bit worried about the unavailability of hardworking veteran Willie Wilson, Doug Kramer, Gelo Alolino and Rey Guevarra, who are still all nursing with injuries.
Despite those injured players, Alas is hoping Abueva, gunner Matthew Wright, rookie Jason Perkins, Justin Chua, JC Intal, RJ Jazul and import Eugene Phelps will step up for Phoenix’s first game.
“I’m hoping we will not be out-performed especially in the fourth quarter, and I’m also hoping we play with a lot of energy,” said Alas. “We just have to fight for hustle points. Columbian Dyip also won their first game (against Meralco). It was close.”
Columbian Dyip, at 0-1 win-loss record, almost upset last Governors’ Cup finalist Meralco behind Akeem Wright’s 30 points and 14 rebounds. They are determined to bounce back from that 106-109 loss to the Bolts last Friday’s season-ending conference opener.
NLEX, holding a 2-0 win-loss record under the tutelage of assistant coach Jojo Lastimosa, is determined to include Magnolia as one of its victims. Lastimosa, however, believes the Hotshots are still a dangerous team due to the presence of Mark Barroca, Ian Sangalang and import Romeo Travis.
“We considered them as one of the tough teams like the San Miguel teams, TNT and Meralco. They are one of those teams that we are really going to prepare for. Because if things go wrong, we will be exposed,” said Lastimosa. “We are worried about that, so we will be prepared as good as we can.”
Lastimosa bared that the injured Olu Ashaolu remains the Road Warriors import against Magnolia since temporary replacement Aaron Fuller is just set to arrive on Wednesday.
Despite having a ruptured patellar tendon tear in the first two games, Ashaolu proved to be NLEX’s wreaking offensive ball after averaging 30 points and 18 rebounds in first two games.
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