Manuel, showing MVP form at 31 years old, was the top local performer in the one-round-robin elims, coming through with a league-best 24.18 points a game that went with other averages of 6.27 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.82 steal and 0.64 block an outing.
And with the 80-point bonus gained on Alaska’s 8-3 win-loss showing, Manuel logged a league-leading 37.2 statistical points a game, topping everybody including reigning four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo who came at second with 36.8 SPs per game.
Sean Anthony and Stanley Pringle, GlobalPort’s new one-two punch, were third and fourth with their averages of 35.4 and 35.0 SPs while Meralco’s Chris Newsome rounded up the Magic Five with 33.5 SPs.
The next five were Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan (31.3), Phoenix’s Matthew Wright (30.7), Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar (30.5), San Miguel’s Alex Cabagnot (30.5) and Troy Rosario (29.9).
The Kings reigned in each of their two championship duels with Justin Brownlee up against Allen Durham.
Arinze Onuaku, a huge, hulking version of Durham, now stands in Ginebra’s way.
“We’re familiar foes. We’ve battle each other a lot in the playoffs over recent years, and every series has been close and tight with incredible moments,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“Meralco is always especially good when they have a dominant inside import, and Onuaku is definitely that. Our ability to defend the paint will be crucial,” Cone also said.
Onuaku delivered 24 points and 23 rebounds in a double-double game complemented well by Chris Newsome, Jared Dillinger and Anjo Caram as the Bolts topped the Kings, 93-82, in their elims tiff on June 1.
Coach Chot Reyes said the Nationals must be at their utmost best as he anticipates a tough challenge against the home team that is hard-pressed to win to boost its own bid.
“This is their qualification game. If they beat us they get into the next round, so we know that Chinese Taipei is going to throw everything at us. It’s incumbent upon us to be just as ready and sharp as well,” said Reyes on an ESPN5 report.
While Australia (4-0) and the Philippines (3-1) are assured of passage into the next round, Chinese Taipei (1-3) is barely half-game up on Japan (0-4) in their fight for the last slot from Group B.
June Mar Fajardo, Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo lead 11 PBA players that will team up with naturalized player Andray Blatche in the Gilas squad that will look to repeat its 90-83 win over Chinese Taipei in their initial matchup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last November.
Chan revealed it was already on his second game with the Kings when Cone approached him and asked the team’s new acquisition regarding their defensive strategy.
The conversation happened a few days before Ginebra was to meet Alaska in a crucial PBA Commissioner’s Cup game.
“Tinanong nga ako ni coach before the game. Sabi ni coach kung nabanggit na niya sa akin yung defensive scheme naming,” related Chan, still one of the most reliable outside shooters in the league today, after the Kings whipped the Aces, 105-86.
“Siguro dahil sa excitement na nakuha nila ako . Nangulat pa siya nung sabihin kong hindi pa,” Chan added.
Siyempre nasa three days total pa lang akong nakaka-ensayo sa team kaya hindi pa masasabi sa akin ni coach ang lahat”, he said.
Cone indeed, couldn’t still hide his excitement about having Chan in the fold following a trade deal with Phoenix for a 2018 first round pick despite the obvious struggle in his first two outings.
The Aces suffered a jolting defeat in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup via a 105-86 blowout that left Compton trying to figure out what exactly was his chargers thinking while playing the Kings in a game they need to win so badly after an 89-74 loss to the Meralco Bolts last June 17.
“I can’t figure out why it looked like half the guys on our team thought we were already in the finals or something,” said Compton. “(Ginebra) played hungry, and we looked fat and happy.”
Ginebra built a 63-38 halftime lead highlighted by a 68-percent shooting in the second quarter while Alaska shot only 31 percent in the first 24 minutes.
Not even Vic Manuel’s ninth straight 20-point game could save Alaska from its second straight loss that threatens to ruin its bid for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Alaska is tied for second with Meralco at 7-3 going into its final elimination round assignment against Phoenix on July 6.
Compton hopes to make most of their long break.
The Bolts muffed eight consecutive charities bridging the fourth quarter and overtime period, that enabled the Elasto Painters to secure a twice-to-beat advantage and the top seeding in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals.
“We had a lot of fight, no question about that,” said Black. “The problem is we missed a lot of foul shots. We missed 18 foul shots (during the game), that would have easily put the game away. It was tied 94-all and we missed a lot of free throws, which gave (Rain or Shine) the chance to stay in the game.”
Import Arinze Onuaku and even Baser Amer, a 78-percent shooter from the stripe, accounted for most of those misses in the decisive stretch that led to Meralco’s second straight loss and a 7-4 record at the end of the elimination round.
“We have to do a better job at making our free throws,” added Black.
However, concerns of two straight defeats to end the elims has left Black to ponder on the what ifs.