Going gets tough for unbeaten elite

Jake Pascual and  Paul Varilla
Jake Pascual of Alaska takes a shot against Paul Varilla of NLEX in the early goings of their game on Wednesday night.The Aces won. (PBA Images)

ONE good habit a team must develop is playing hard all the time, no matter who your opponent is – something that Blackwater is seemingly trying to do in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

The Elite are probably reaping good results that they are in the thick of things at least this early in the elimination round, when four heavyweight teams that figured prominently in the last Philippine Cup have yet to plunge into action.

Now, the Elite’s seeming invincibility will be put to another severe test as they play Phoenix Fuels, the team that topped the elimination round last conference, in the 4:30 opening tussle of an explosive doubleheader at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Elite are on a roll with three straight wins capped by last Sunday’s 118-110 whipping of Columbian Dyip in a victory where import Alex Stepheson and three locals alternated in offense.

Stepheson cut loose with 26 points and hauled down 21 rebounds in another yeoman job highlighted by seven blocked shots.

What was good about the Elite during that game was that they never took the Dyip for granted in response to coach Aris Dimaunahan’s reminder.

“The challenge, really, was to get this win and I reminded the guys we have to take care of business from the get-go,” said Dimaunahan.

“Plus the fact that Columbian, if you slack against them, they’ll step on you,” added the rookie coach. “So congratulations to our guys for not letting that happen.”

And look, the Elite are enjoying probably their best start in a conference.

The Elite readily showed their mettle right on opening day of the midseason conference last May 19 when they upended Meralco in overtime, 94-91. Five days later, they put one over on Barangay Ginebra last May 24, 108-107, before they routed the Dyip, 118-110 last May 26.

Against the Dyip, the Elite also drew big games from Bobby Ray Parks who added 23 points, and from Alein Maliksi and Mac Belo who both came off the bench to contribute 19 points apiece.

Dimaunahan is now hoping the momentum would still be there when the Elite clash with the Fuel Masters today, and Rain or Shine on Sunday in a pair tough outings this week.

“These wins are a nice thing to have before we have another back to back next week,” stressed  Dimaunahan.

The Elasto Painters meanwhile finally plunge back into action after a little over a month of rest, and they will bring along old champion import Denzel Bowles as they take on the Meralco Bolts in the main offering at 7 p.m.

Phoenix and Rain or Shine, who were both semifinalists in the recently-concluded Philippine Cup, are two of the four teams that have yet to start their campaign in this conference, the two others being Magnolia and San Miguel Beer.

Bowles and James Yap were both part of B-Meg Llamados that topped this tourney in 2012. The two are together again, this time they hope to weave their old tricks with the Elasto Painters.

The Bolts have already played three games in the tourney, winning once against the Columbian Dyip, 101-92. They lost in overtime to the Blackwater Elite, 91-94, on opening day and succumbed versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings, 95-110, Sunday.