Knockout Sunday: 4 teams collide in Fiesta Cup wild card phase


The dreaded wild card stage of the PBA Fiesta Cup unfolds Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum and for four teams – Coca-Cola, Air21, Rain or Shine and Sta. Lucia – survival is definitely the name of the game.

The Elasto Painters square off with the Air21 Express in the 6:30 p.m. main game of a sudden-death doubleheader that also features the Realtors battling the Tigers in the 4 p.m. opener.

As expected, all four teams expressed eagerness and optimism about their respective chances of coming out alive in the opening stage of the Fiesta Cup’s playoffs.

"It’s a one game affair," said Coca-Cola coach Bo Perasol. "We will do whatever it takes to qualify for the next KO game."

"We are ready to play. Everybody has been counting us out but we are prepared for the wild card against Coca-Cola," said Sta. Lucia counterpart Boyet Fernandez, unmindful that his Realtors have been on a skid going to the playoff in the aftermath of the major trade involving key players Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes.

Fernandez may have enough reason to feel this way. The Realtors after all, split their head-to-head duel with the Tigers, winning their first encounter (108-94) before Coca-Cola got back with an 87-76 victory in the second round.

But definitely of great interest will be the Rain or Shine-Air21 tussle.

The Elasto Painters finished as the sixth seed at the end of the elimination round, setting them up to a grudge rematch with the No. 9 ranked Express, a team that obviously has an axe to grind against them.

In their last encounter just a week ago, Rain or Shine rallied back from as much as a 28-point deficit for a 113-111 triumph over Air21 on Ryan Arana’s game-winning putback at the buzzer.

Coach Yeng Guiao and the Express have put that heartbreaking setback behind, focusing instead on the important task at hand – getting back at the Elasto Painters and eliminating them outright.

The Express, showing their seriousness of getting on to the next stage, made a last minute pitch to acquire Leo Najorda from Barako Energy Coffee. A personal draft pick of Guiao when he was still with Barako Bull, Najorda came aboard via a trade involving veteran big man Richard Yee.

The Elasto Painters are not feeling the heat, though.

Despite the Express’ move to stock up on their manpower, Rain or Shine still feels confident it can pull this one off, having learned a lot in its playoff game with Barangay Ginebra Friday night for the last outright quarterfinals berth.

Although the Elasto Painters lost that one against the Kings, 115-88, coach Caloy Garcia said he’s learned from it, and he hopes that the lack of desire they showed against the most popular team won’t surface again.

"We didn’t play the way we were supposed to (against Ginebra)," said Garcia. "They came out like they really wanted to win. They played great team basketball. We have to come out with that kind of mentality if we want to go further this conference. The game against Ginebra was a good example for us. We should have the same fire."

The winner of the Rain or Shine-Air21 duel earns the right of facing the victor of the Sta. Lucia-Coca-Cola showdown in another knockout match, with the winner advancing to the quarterfinals for the right to face Derby Ace. – JVP, GMANews.TV

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