The KaTropa, hunting for their first crown since the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup, and the Bolts, still searching for that breakthrough since returning to the league in 2010, race for that crucial 1-0 headstart in the best-of-five series in the 6:30 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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Tnt, Meralco lock horns
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — TNT KaTropa and Meralco Bolts fire the opening salvo tonight in a PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal duel between sister teams carrying firm determination to end years of frustration, neither about to give an inch.

The KaTropa, hunting for their first crown since the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup, and the Bolts, still searching for that breakthrough since returning to the league in 2010, race for that crucial 1-0 headstart in the best-of-five series in the 6:30 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Game 1 is a must-win game.  We have to come out really strong for we are the underdogs, not them,” TNT coach Bong Ravena said.

Meralco counterpart Norman Black begged to differ, saying it’s TNT that’s favored here.

“It will be a huge challenge being matched up against the top offensive team in the conference,” said Black. “Our transition and perimeter defense will have to be at its best as we try to slow down the high-scoring TNT team.”

Led by the tournament’s top gunner, KJ McDaniels (37.09 markers, 7.88 boards, 4.7 feeds and one block), the KaTropa are good for 109.58 points per outing on a 39 percent three-point shooting and 49 percent field-goal accuracy overall and normally make 15.67 markers in transition plays.

The Bolts are a major offensive threat themselves, averaging 102 points per outing with a 46 percent field-goal markmanship and 35 percent from the deep, so TNT will also have its work cut out on D. Meralco regular Allen Durham has been a pillar of strength as usual, delivering 29.64 points, 14.64 rebounds, 6.27 assists and a block per outing.

“While it will be tough, we will just go out and play our game to win as we have the whole conference,” said Black, who’s eyeing to steer the team to the finals for the third time.

While imports lead the charge, both the Bolts and the KaTropa expect sufficient local contribution.

Black depends on Raymond Almazan, Baser Amer, Allein Maliksi, Bong Quinto and SEAG 3x3 champion Chris Newsome to backstop Durham.

For his part, Ravena seeks to get much-needed support from Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro, Rayray Parks, and RR Pogoy, if he’s fit enough. Shooter Pogoy, TNT’s top local scorer with a 20.27 norm, suffered a back injury in the quarters and consequently missed Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign in the Southeast Asian Games.

Asked about Pogoy’s status for Game 1, Ravena said: “Hopefully, RR will be 100 percent tomorrow (tonight).”

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