By JONAS TERRADO
(DHVSU Gym, Bacolor)
3 p.m. — Meralco vs NLEX
6 p.m. — TNT vs Ginebra
Twice-to-beat TNT and Meralco try to march their way to the semifinals against teams out to extend their campaigns Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Meralco hopes to beat NLEX for the second straight Wednesday in the 3 p.m. opener before TNT battles defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, which barely made it to the quarters, in the nightcap at 6 p.m.
Both teams need just one win to enter the best-of-seven semis against their opponents which must beat them twice in order to secure an upset.
For TNT, the road to a first title since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup will have to go through Ginebra, a talented team that struggled to avoid an early exit during the eliminations.
The Tropang Giga topped the eliminations by winning 10 of 11, including an 88-67 rout of Ginebra last Sept. 12.
Rookie Mikey Williams, ranked second in the Best Player of the Conference race, will be one of coach Chot Reyes’ main weapons tasked to repeat over the Gin Kings, so are RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, Kib Montalbo and Kelly Williams.
Jayson Castro’s production was limited in the elims, but his capability to thrive in big games is something fans expect to see.
Ginebra takes on the team it beat for last year’s Philippine Cup crown after taking the eighth and final quarters berth with a 95-85 victory over Phoenix Super LPG last Sept. 25.
Last year’s Most Improved Player Prince Caperal, whose minutes have dipped this conference, came through with 19 points to key Ginebra’s triumph. Caperal is expected to play a big role anew with Japeth Aguilar ruled out for the rest of the conference due to an MCL sprain.
Meanwhile, Meralco seeks a second straight Philippine Cup semis against an NLEX side which will no longer have Kiefer Ravena for the remainder of the conference after being cleared to start his B.League stint with the Shiga Lakestars this weekend.
The Bolts could be wary of the Road Warriors, whom they beat 104-101 last Sept. 22 but almost lost a huge lead when rookie Calvin Oftana fired majority of his eight threes in the fourth.
Mac Belo, rookie Alvin Pasaol and Chris Newsome will lead Meralco’s attempt to make short work of its fellow MVP Group team.