Playing with the resolve and brilliance befitting the No. 1 seed, TNT on Wednesday night didn’t give Barangay Ginebra a chance with an 84-71 win in the first game of their quarterfinal clash ensuring that the PBA Philippine Cup will crown a new champion before the end of next month at Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor town, Pampanga.
Four of the Tropang Giga’s starters tossed in twin digits and a strong defensive showing in the middle two quarters practically snuffed the fight out of the Gin Kings as TNT became the first team to the Final Four and will await the winner of the San Miguel Beer-NorthPort series, which the Beermen lead, 1-0.“The start was extremely difficult, so we counted on our defense to allow us to stay in the game,” said TNT head coach Chot Reyes, after dispatching of a team that played without Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson. “We’re not kidding ourselves, every team would not want to meet Ginebra in the quarterfinals. I doubt they would be in eighth place if they’re complete.”
While TNT shut the door on its lower-ranked foe right away, Meralco came within one stop of doing the same, only to allow rookie Calvin Oftana to nail the marginal layup with 6.1 seconds remaining that lifted No. 7 NLEX to an 81-80 win over the Bolts and necessitate a KO match in their side of the quarterfinals.
Coach Yeng Guiao continued to show faith in his rookie, designating the play for Oftana, as the Road Warriors got to live another day and will have all the confidence they need going into the decider on Friday.
“It’s not really me giving [rookies] a chance. It’s them proving that they deserve the chance,” said Guiao of Oftana.
Anthony Semerad finished with 23 points to lead all NLEX shooters, with Allein Maliksi scattering 16 to pace the second-seeded Bolts, who were knocked out by the Kings in the Final Four last year in the bubble.
RR Pogoy scored 16 points and Troy Rosario had 15 for the Tropang Giga, who were felled in the Finals by the Kings last year.
Christian Standhardinger had 17 points and 19 rebounds for the Kings. INQ
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