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Meralco, Phoenix dispute semis slot

Meralco hopes that Cliff Hodge will be fit enough to play against Phoenix today in their knockout duel in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. | Photograph COURTESY OF PBA

Game today:

(Mall of Asia Arena)

6:30 p.m. — Phoenix vs Meralco


Meralco is moving heaven and earth to beat Phoenix Super LPG in their knockout encounter tonight that the team is tinkering with the idea of fielding a key player that sustained a bad sprain several days ago in the Bolts’ 116-107 triple overtime win in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Head coach Luigi Trillo said on the eve of the 6:15 p.m. showdown that do-it-all forward Cliff Hodge will suit up but will be used sparingly.

Hodge suffered a bad sprain in the 2:17 mark of the first overtime period and was unable to return to action.

But knowing Hodge’s work ethic and mind set, Trillo believes the 35-year-old Filipino-American dribbler would go the extra mile for Meralco to pull off a victory.

The winner of the Meralco-Phoenix clash will meet top seed Magnolia in the semifinal round.

“We might be able to use him, but probably under minutes restrictions,” Trillo said. “But if we see that he’ll have difficulty playing, we might not use him at all because he’s going to hurt the team as well.”

Trillo noted that during practice, the injury was bothering the Florida-born player.

Hodge has been the primary post defender of Meralco and one of his tough assignments is to guard Phoenix import Jonathan Williams.

Both the Bolts and the Fuel Masters also used the past three days to recover from that draining triple-overtime encounter.

Once the game gets going, the Fuel Masters will be banking on the trio of Williams, Jason Perkins and Tyler Tio, who each produced at least 20 points in that losing effort against the Bolts.

Also out to provide offensive and defensive gems is rookie Ken Tuffin.

Tuffin, Phoenix’s first round draft pick this season, contributed 16 points while also shackling down Schonn Miller.

Miller, Meralco’s third reinforcement this conference, was only good for 18 points, but he did pull down 20 rebounds.

Head coach Jamike Jarin of the Fuel Masters feels that the knockout game will be decided by the players who will leave everything on the floor.

“It’s going to be a player’s game,” Jarin said. “The coaches will be the ones to lose it, but the players will make things happen for the team.”

For Trillo, the opportunity of playing in a knockout game after facing a twice-to-win disadvantage is something they need to grab now that it’s right in front of them.

“We’ve been in this situation before,” Trillo said. “Now, we just have to keep that momentum going. We know it’s going to be a battle and with them as opponents, we cannot rest. Sometimes, you have to find ways ad we did that when we won without Cliff.”

The Bolts found the resolve to win behind Bong Quinto, Aaron Black, Allein Maliksi and Hodge, before he got injured in the latter stretch of the game.

In case Hodge won’t be fit enough to play, Trillo can still call on a few others on the bench to step up to the plate.

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