TNT Tropang Giga vs Phoenix Fuel Masters, Barangay Ginebra Kings against Meralco Bolts for finals spot

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

IT is win or go home for the four remaining teams in the PBA Philippine Cup as they play in a pair of semifinal rubber matches on Friday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena in Pampanga.

All knotted up at 2-2 in their respective best-of-five series, the TNT Tropang Giga and Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters on one bracket and the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and the Meralco Bolts on the other make one last go at booking a spot in the finals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Filipino tournament.

Kicking off the proceedings at 3:45 p.m. is the clash between the Tropang Giga and Fuel Masters.

TNT forced the do-or-die on Wednesday after taking Game Four, 102-101.

It was another close game in the tightly fought series with the outcome not decided until the dying seconds of the contest.

Ray Parks Jr. led the way for the Tropang Giga in their gutsy Game Four victory, finishing with a game-high 36 points, 12 coming in the fourth quarter, to go along with six rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Veteran Jayson Castro had 21 markers and five dimes while Roger Pogoy finished with 18 points.

Also stepping up for TNT was guard Simon Enciso who had 14 points, going 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.

For Phoenix, which showed a lot of resilience despite the loss, Matthew Wright had another solid outing coming from injury, finishing with 34 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Jason Perkins, meanwhile, had 19 points.

Do-it-all Calvin Abueva, for his part, had 17 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Fuel Masters before fouling out.

Given how highly competitive the series has been, with the average winning margin pegged at 3.5 points, TNT coach Bong Ravena said they have to be ready for what is expected to be another grind of a match in the winner-take-all.

“There is no relaxing on our part. We just tied the series. There is nothing to celebrate yet,” said Mr. Ravena postgame.

“We have to want it more in the next game and keep a high level of play.”

Capping off the do-or-die day for the PBA is the clash between the Kings and the Bolts at 6:30 p.m.

Meralco dug deep in the last game to hack out an 83-80 win to stay alive in the Philippine Cup.

Game Four between the Kings and Bolts was marked by runs and counterruns, setting up a cardiac end game.

Reynel Hugnatan, who top-scored for Meralco with 19 points, drained a crucial long basket in the closing seconds of the match while Raymond Almazan produced a game-saving defensive gem — blocking Stanley Pringle’s go-ahead basket attempt — to help their team to the big win.

Chris Newsome had 16 points, 11 rebounds, six steals and five assists, while Cliff Hodge also had 16 markers for the Bolts.

For Barangay Ginebra, it was Mr. Pringle who was the high point man with 18 points to go along with seven rebounds and six assists.

Jared Dillinger had 15 points with Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar chipping in 12 points apiece.

Having put themselves in a position to advance to the finals, Meralco coach Norman Black said they have every intent to see their championship push through.

“We have to win two games to move to the next stage. We’re halfway through,” said Mr. Black., adding that he is hoping that his players play their respective roles and more so as to give them a better chance to win in the rubber match.