ALASKA Milk braces for an expected fightback from Barako Bull what with two-time Best Import Gabe Freeman having shrugged off jetlag and and now attuned to the patterns of his new ballclub.
The Aces and the Energy, who hardly went through a Lenten break, will bring everything to the table when they collide in Game Three of the PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals - the winner of which earning a ticket to the best-of-five semifinals opposite defending champion Talk N Text.
The Aces got back at the Energy, 99-92 last Wednesday to send the quarterfinals into a rubber match. Freeman debuted for Barako Bull in that game as a replacement for Reggie Okosa who turned out to be a dud.
Okosa, who likewise came in as a replacement for Rodney White who, after the nine-game elimination round, left for the United States to settle family problems, went scoreless in 11 minutes in game One. despite his inability to contribute, the Energy got a big lift from ageless warriors Ronald Tubid and Danny Seigle to score a 103-90 victory in the series opener.
Freeman, who played two conferences for San Miguel Beer (now Petron Blaze), arrived the night before the game. He was good for ten first quarter points giving Barako Bull a 34-28 lead. But went silent in the second and third periods. This gave Alaska Milk the opportunity to come back and erect a 77-63 advantage entering the fourth quarter. From there, Barako Bull groped even if Freeman started scoring again.
Freeman still wound up with 22 points on top of 17 rebounds and four assists. He is expected to do more than that in the sudden-death Game Three.
“We all know what Freeman can do. It’s just that he was feeling the effects of jetlag. And he
had no benefit of a practice with Barako. The real Gabe Freeman will play in Game Three and we have to be ready for him,” said Alaska Milk coach Joel Banal who hopes to lead the Aces back to the semifinals after they were eliminated in the Philippine Cup.
Alaska import Adam Parada was still contained by Mick Pennisi and Dorian Pena as he could only cough up 12 points. He added 10 rebounds, two blocked shots, an assist and a steal.
But four locals wound up with double figures in scoring with lead point guard. LA Tenorio tossing in 22 and Cyrus Baguio having 20.
Sonny Thoss, who was tasked to guard Freeman early on in the contest, contributed 17 points eight rebounds and four assists while rookie Marnel Baracael had ten points and seven boards.
With Freeman well rested and the spring back in his legs, it is unlikely that Thoss will be assigned to him again as he would most likely breeze by the big man of Alaska Milk.
Freeman will be supported by Seigle, Tubid and two-time Most Valuable Player Willie Miller who all tossed in twin digits in scoring in Game Two.
Barako Bull head coach Edmundo “Junel” Baculi is hoping to make his first semifinals appearance
as a bench tactician in the PBA. He will also be leaning on the likes of Wynne Arboleda, Leomar
Najorda and Don Carlos Allado.(BP)