Thursday, March 22, 2012



DESPITE back-to-back blowout losses, Air21 remains in a relatively better position than Meralco in the PBA Commissioner's Cup eliminations.

But time is running out for both teams and a crucial move could be had by one Friday when they
collide at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Especially Meralco, which is on its last outing in the nine-game elims. That explains why coach Ryan Gregorio just wants his Bolts to go all-out for a win and hope it is enough to nail them a tie and an ensuing playoff spot for the sixth and last berth.

"There is a small opportunity for us to make the playoffs. That small opportunity is dependent on our victory against Air21. For sure, we will do whatever it takes to have a chance for the last (quarterfinals) bus," said Gregorio.

Meralco has no other choice. A followup loss to its shock 82-87 defeat to Barako Bull last Saturday would relegate the Bolts to last place and an early exit.

Air21 has fared worse lately, losing to Rain or Shine by 30 points and to Powerade by 29.

The Express have the luxury of having another stab, against Ginebra at elims end on Wednesday.

But coach Franz Pumaren knows the time to make any move is now, while his team's fate is still
within their hands.

"Must win for us," said Pumaren. "We should go back to our basics, which is playing aggressive
defense and try to execute our offense smartly."

For Gregorio, it's also now a matter of taking the lessons learned from that loss to Barako, such as holding on to a 15-point lead and not getting outscored in the second half by 61-39, to heart.

"I thought we played good basketball for 24 minutes against Barako, but 48 minutes of tenacious
defense is required for us to win," he said. "We learned our lesson last time and we are determined not to be complacent until the final buzzer."

Gregorio also maintained quitting is farthest from the collective minds of his players.

"Our (conference) is on the brink. Our survival instincts will again be tested. We will keep on
fighting until the fighting is over," he stated. (NC)