San Miguel behemoth June Mar Fajardo takes a perimeter jumper off TNT’s RR Pogoy while Kelly Williams moves in late for help. The KaTropa won the match, 93-88.
Joey Mendoza
KO tussles close out quarters
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The 2019 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals get to a climactic end tonight with twin knockout tussles determining the fates of four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer, corporate rival TNT KaTropa and arch nemeses Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia.

The Beermen and the KaTropa knock each other at 4:30 p.m. then the Gin Kings and the Hotshots clash in their own do-or-die tiff at 7 p.m. in an explosive bill at the Smart Araneta Coliseum marking the continued 44th anniversary celebration of the league.

Both could well be slam-bang battles especially the duel between the corporate rivals where one side seeks to stretch a dominant title run in the tourney while the other looks to end a long drought.

San Miguel is the odds-on pick but TNT has proved to be a worthy opponent, barely dropping Game One (78-80) at endgame then making a successful fightback in Game Two (93-88).

SMB coach Leo Austria acknowledges that the KaTropa are challenging them very well.

“They’re benefiting much from their players that came from us. Naibigay yung mga plays namin. Kabisadong-kabisado nila ang ginagawa namin,” said Austria.

“We have to adjust. We have to devise some plays to break their defense. June Mar (Fajardo) is still producing his usual numbers but our problem is our perimeter shooting. Ang baba ng shooting percentage namin,” Austria added.

For Fajardo, at stake is their shot at a fifth straight Philippine Cup crown plus his crack at a sixth consecutive Best Player of the Conference award in the all-Filipino tourney.

Fajardo leads the stats race with 42.2 statistical points per game, but at least three players in Calvin Abueva, Matthew Wright and RR Pogoy are major threats.

Meanwhile, only one between the Commissioner’s Cup champ and the Governors Cup titlist will stay alive and proceed in pursuit of another crown.

After engaging in a pair of lopsided matches, the Kings and the Hotshots could finally clash in a grind-out duel as they are expected to pour everything in the deciding match in their best-of-three quarters showdown.

The Kings pounded out an 86-75 triumph in Game One then the Hotshots came back and hacked out a 106-77 rout in Game Two.

Game Three could be a question of desire and determination.

“Kapag nadala namin ang parehong effort at desire na ipinakita namin sa Game Two, maganda ang chance namin,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.

The Kings say they must make their shots to overcome the scrappy Magnolia side.

“We must be able to hit some outside shots to open things up,” said Greg Slaughter. “We just got to get more of our teammates involved, try to set some people up, get some outside shots going so we could open up the inside.” 

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