When the AirAsia Philippine Patriots and the San Miguel Beermen joust on Saturday, two players already familiar with the local brand of play will suit up for the first time in their respective teams’ third and, for the meantime, final showdown in the ASEAN Basketball League.
Chris Alexander, a former import of Barangay Ginebra in the PBA, will reinforce the Patriots replacing Nakiea Miller. Curiously, he will make his ABL debut against the Beermen, which is owned by San Miguel Corporation which also bankrolls Ginebra.
Highly-touted guard Chris Banchero, meanwhile, will make his much-anticipated debut for the Beermen this Saturday in time for their stretch run.
Game time is at 6 p.m. with the Beermen as the designated home team at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The Patriots are currently on top of the standings with a 13-2 win-loss record while the Beermen is close behind at 12-4, although it won’t come as a surprise if the teams end up seeing each other again in the postseason.
The match-up is starting up to become an intense rivalry in the ABL especially after the teams’ second encounter this season.
Alexander and Banchero weren’t around when a brawl occurred last March 4 that resulted in one-game suspensions for the Patriots’ Anthony Johnson, Ardy Larong and Erick Rodriguez and the Beermen’s Aries Dimaunahan and Jun Jun Cabatu.
The Beermen won that contest, 68-66, against the Patriots, after also coming out victorious in their January 21 game, 78-70.
The Patriots hope to break the trend, as their only losses this season has come at the hands of the Beermen, and they are confident Alexander’s entry will help them do that.
“Our main objective to become a better team as the season winds down,” said AirAsia Philippines coach Glenn Capacio. “But we haven’t won against San Miguel and we want to prove that we can beat them.”
After leading the Gin Kings to the 2008 PBA Fiesta Conference, Alexander joined Ginebra in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup, but was replaced by Jackson Vroman early in the conference despite posting 14.0 points, 20.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks over three games.
Curiously, the Beermen are reinforced by players who played as imports in the Commissioner’s Cup. Duke Crews reinforced Rain or Shine while Nick Fazekas suited up for Petron.
Capacio hopes that Alexander will blend quickly with the other Patriots in time for their game against the Beermen. “We’re going to make a few adjustments but we hope that he makes an immediate impact,” he added.
Banchero, meanwhile, will finally suit up for the Beermen after passport problems hounded the six-foot-one guard, delaying his debut in the league.
He had a stellar collegiate stint with the Seattle Pacific University Falcons, logging an average of 19.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.3 steals as he led his team to the US NCAA Division II tournament in 2010. He also was a strong candidate for the Division II Player of the Year in 2011 as he averaged 22.4 points a game, but was saddled with an ACL injury.
The Patriots are no stranger to Banchero having played for the Beermen in an ABL preseason tournament.