Bolts, Gin Kings brace for tougher title rematch

Game Friday (Lucena)

7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Meralco

MANILA, Philippines – The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and the Meralco Bolts traveled to Lucena as early as Thurday for a practice session at the playing venue there. Afterwards, they declared they’re ready for their titular showdown that begins Friday night.

The reigning champs and the challengers clash at 7 p.m. at the Quezon Convention Center in the Quezon provincial capital, disputing the head start in what could well be a fortnight of slam-bang battles in their PBA Governors Cup title rematch.

Meralco drew first blood, 114-109, in the finale last season, but Ginebra won four of the next five games, the last on a dramatic buzzer-beating trey by Justin Brownlee to win the crown.

Both teams brace for a tougher series, and they expect a fierce confrontation right in the opener, considering their ample breather and preparation for the game.

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Meralco coach Norman Black said three days of longer break than Ginebra is not much of an advantage.

Barangay Ginebra chief playmaker LA Tenorio, meanwhile, feels their tough series against TNT KaTropa can well serve them in good stead for their championship series with Meralco.

“TNT prepared us for Meralco,” said Tenorio, insisting though that the Bolts will be a lot tougher.

The Bolts have been very impressive, dropping just three games on their way to a return in the Governors Cup finale with their do-it-all import Allen Durham.

Durham, who suffered an ankle sprain in their quarterfinal matchup with NLEX, said he feels good and he can’t wait for the title series to start.

“My ankle is not an issue. It’s not a factor in the Star series,” said Durham, consistent with huge all-around numbers in their three-game sweep of the Hotshots in the semifinals.

With Durham, the Bolts are confident they can match up with Ginebra’s huge frontcourt that includes Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Japeth Aguilar.

The question is who will take on Durham.

Cone, Tenorio and Brownlee call Durham a beast of an import.

For Meralco, Joe Devance could well be their biggest matchup problem.

“He’s been the biggest key for us this conference as he’s a matchup problem for our opponent with his ability to play both from outside and inside,” said Tenorio.

But both Cone and Black should be ready for a duel of game preparations and on-game tactical adjustments.

And it could really be a long, hard-fought series for these great teams with great coaches, superb imports and competent local players.