Mar 18, 2023

Gallent insists defense key as San Miguel tries to clinch semis berth versus Converge

THERE is now more reason for San Miguel Beer to fully heed coach Jorge Gallent's call.

The Beermen have to play with what Gallent termed as "pride" in their defense when they square off with the double-edged weapons the Converge FiberXers are sure to come armed with Sunday at the start of their PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

By virtue of entering the last eight at No. 2, SMB would be enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage against the seventh-ranked Converge in the best-of-three duel set at 4:30 p.m.

What should additionally stack the odds in favor of the Beermen is the fact that they wound up the eliminations with back-to-back wins while the FiberXers have gone on a three-game slide.

But Gallent himself stated that if his team wants to go far in the playoffs it must not rely on its vaunted offense alone, insisting his players must "be good in our individual defense, to have pride in it."

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Even Vic Manuel had to agree. "Ang talagang nagiging problema namin talaga sa depensa, kasi sa opensa hindi naman kami nagkaka-problema," said the muscular forward after their 129-116 win over Rain or Shine just last Friday where he shared team scoring honors 23 points.

"Siguro iyon talaga ang bibigyan namin ng time pagdating namin sa practice."

Gallent and Manuel could not be faulted for emphasizing the need to make stops, especially against Converge.

First, the FiberXers won their lone elims meeting, 107-103, last Feb. 11 and that was when the Beermen still had June Mar Fajardo, now out with an MCL injury for at least until the semifinals.

And then there's the relative unknown for Converge since it has brought in a new import in Tom Vodanovich to replace Jamaal Franklin following the latter's falling-out with coach Aldin Ayo.

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Vodanovich is a 28-year-old member of the New Zealand national team who has honed his game in both James Madison U in the US NCAA and the pro leagues in both his native country and Australia.

Vodanovich has been described by scouts as "a solid all-around player" and his 20-point performance in the Tall Blacks' 88-63 win over Gilas Pilipinas in a Fiba World Cup Asian qualifier in February of last year at the same Big Dome seem to bear this out. Whether he would readily fit Ayo's system remains to be seen, however.

Manuel is sure of one thing. "Kailangan naming mag-tulong-tulong talaga, especially ngayon wala si June Mar," he said. (NC)