By JONAS TERRADO
TNT and Magnolia Pambansang Manok look to build on their series-opening wins and gain 2-0 leads on their semifinal opponents Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Another down-the-wire finish could be in the offing for the Tropang Giga as they eye another win over the San Miguel Beermen at 3 p.m. while the Hotshots prepare for another bruising battle with the Meralco Bolts in their 6 p.m. affair.
Coach Chot Reyes said TNT will probably need to do more in order to repeat over SMB even after escaping with an 89-88 victory in the opener of the best-of-seven series three days earlier.
The Tropang Giga took a 12-point lead in the third quarter but needed a last-second stop to hold off the Beermen.
“If we give a little bit more effort than the other team, then we have a chance. But it’s a gargantuan effort. And hopefully we can sustain for a long series just like this,” said Reyes.
RR Pogoy, Jayson Castro, Poy Erram and Troy Rosario were key in Game 1 but getting rookie guard Mikey Williams back to his usual offensive production during the eliminations may bode well for the Tropang Giga.
Williams was held to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting but had eight rebounds and six assists.
Despite falling short, the Beermen can still feel good about themselves given how the contest was back-and-forth before the Tropang Giga’s late third quarter binge and also for almost stealing Game 1.
SMB coach Leo Austria will likely go with his talented eight-man rotation of Perez, June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo, Mo Tautuaa and Arwind Santos.
Magnolia, meanwhile, also had to fight off Meralco’s resistance for 3 1/4 quarters before securing an 88-79 win in a heated match, but coach Chito Victolero, who late in the game had a verbal exchange with Meralco’s Raymond Almazan, believes the intensity will be the same.
“It’s always a tough game, it’s always a dogfight,” Victolero said. “Both teams naman may pride. At saka they have a system also, they are a defensive team also. Kumbaga duguan bago ka maka-score e. It’s all about the discipline and execution siguro.
“Nakita niyo naman from start to finish, close game e. Siguro sa dulo magkakatalo lang talaga. But I like the attitude of my players, I like the discipline, and hopefully we continue to do that as the series goes on.”
The Hotshots’ chances of repeating over the Bolts may rest on Calvin Abueva, who spent half of Game 1 on the bench due to foul trouble. Abueva came back early in the fourth quarter with five fouls in a gamble that paid off when they were able to erase a six-point deficit.
Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee will also play a big factor for the Hotshots against the Bolts, whose every player can step up when needed.
But perhaps the players Meralco need to do well are Chris Newsome and Allein Maliksi, two of the team’s three top scorers this conference.
Newsome had eight points on 3-of-7 shooting while Maliksi made just three points in Game 1.