PBA quarterfinal preview: Petron goes up against dangerous Barako Bull
MANILA, Philippines – The Petron Blaze Boosters try to seek their winning form as they commence with a best-of-three duel against a dangerous Barako Bull squad on Tuesday, January 21 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
(3) Petron Blaze Boosters (10-4) vs (6) Barako Bull Energy
Philippine Cup head-to-head: Tied, 1-1
Petron 96, Barako Bull 90
Barako Bull 92, Petron 88
Why Petron will win: The Boosters had a pristine start in the Philippine Cup, winning their first seven games before falling to third place with a string of losses. But it doesn't mean their hopes of making it to the finals are already fading away. With a complete line-up bannered by reigning MVP Arwind Santos and 6-foot-10 behemoth June Mar Fajardo, Petron will be hard to stop. Add excellent wing men Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter, and versatile point guard Alex Cabagnot to that mix and the Boosters have what it takes to move on to the next round.
Why Barako Bull will win: Let's face it: The Energy have been overachieving in this conference, especially with most experts predicting them to be at the cellar of the standings. Barako Bull carries experience, with most of their players having been in the finals. JC Intal has been a revelation with his 10.8 PPG and 4.9 RPG stat line; Ronjay Buenafe and Mark Macapagal give Barako additional outside weapons, while Willie Miller is the team's heart and soul. Expect him to carry the squad when the game is on the line.
Alex Cabagnot (12.2 PPG, 5 RPG, 5.8 APG) vs Willie Miller (9.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.3 APG)
Ever since returning from an injury that sidelined him at the start of the Philippine Cup, Alex Cabagnot has steered Petron's fluid offense. Former two-time PBA MVP Willie Miller meanwhile, may not be putting up as impressive numbers as before, but we all know he is still capable of hitting the big shots and leading his team to win. Both leaders will dictate the pace in this series for both squads.
Petron: Doug Kramer
Doug Kramer stepped up his game when June Mar Fajardo was out, averaging 9 points and 11.3 rebounds in three outings. His main role this time is to give June Mar Fajardo a good amount of rest while banging bodies with Barako's big men on the floor.
Barako Bull: JC Intal
It's a pleasant sight to see Intal's career rise again at Barako Bull. He's been a huge presence for the Energy, hitting treys and making rim-rattling dunks. Intal's stellar play in the conference must continue for the Energy to have a good shot at advancing to the semifinals.
What this game means: Pitted as underdogs, Barako Bull will not back down against the giants of Petron. They have surpassed expectations and they are not yet done with their Cinderella story. The Boosters meanwhile, seek to end a Philippine Cup title drought and this is the first step towards achieving that feat. With a complete lineup, this is their ultimate chance to shine.
RAPPLER PICK: Petron in two games