MANILA, Philippines — TNT’s Kelly Williams said it’s hard guarding the PBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player.
So on Thursday night, he played hard. At 35, he banged with bodies, scored relentlessly, cleaned the glass and orchestrated offense — all that as if it’s 2008.
And it seemed to have rubbed off on his teammates, especially the ones who have been through many battles.
In the tightly contested Game Five of the Philippine Cup semifinals Thursday, San Miguel’s core team — composed of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross — were firing on all cylinders.
But so did the KaTropa’s own. Ranidel De Ocampo, Jayson Castro, Ryan Reyes and even Larry Fonacier all registered points in that skirmish.
TNT’s bunch of old hands matched the firepower of the same Beermen quintet that steered the club to three championships in the last three seasons.
“San Miguel’s an incredibly tough team,” said Williams. “We came here and we did what we had to do and get the win … I’m proud of my guys for playing the way they did and responding to [them].”
“It was a hard-fought game as we have expected. They came out with everything,” he added.
But it was chief tactician Nash Racela who highlighted the game’s top storyline.
“If it was just one-on-one between Kelly and June Mar, well, it would be really hard to beat June Mar,” the coach said. “It took the whole team to be able to limit him today. It was again a total team effort for us.”
“A lot of credit to their coaches for making it really hard for us,” Racela noted. “At the same time, credit to … our players because they gave us a lot of [output].”
Williams, De Ocampo and Castro all finished the game with 18 points each.
“Our model is the Spurs. You review the lineups in the PBA — we have the most number of [veterans],” Racela bared.
The win also saw the first time TNT breached the century mark in scoring since defeating GlobalPort in the opening of their best-of-three quarterfinals duel.
The KaTropa have a chance to end their grueling every-other-day affair with the defending Philippine Cup champions this Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.