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TNT, Meralco eye semis slots

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
TNT, Meralco eye semis slots
Stanley Pringle of Ginebra pulls off a jumper against Dave Marcelo and Brian Heruela of TNT during their elims encounter won by Tropang Giga, 88-67.
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Ginebra, NLEX fight for dear lives

MANILA, Philippines — They did everything in their power to get the coveted win-once quarterfinal incentives in the 46th PBA Philippine Cup, and now it’s time to cash in for top-seeded TNT and No. 2 Meralco.

The Tropang Giga, who roared to a hot 10-1 record in the elims, seek to take the short route to the best-of-seven semifinals at the expense of embattled titleholder Barangay Ginebra no less tonight at 6 p.m. in Bacolor, Pampanga.

The second-ranked Bolts, who posted an all-Filipino franchise-best 9-2 mark, shoot for the same objective against No. 7 NLEX at 3 p.m.

TNT has been an unstoppable force all tournament long while Ginebra has been struggling, barely escaping outright ouster on a 95-85 win over Phoenix in the playoff for No. 8 spot last Saturday. But Tropang Giga coach Chot Reyes expects Tim Cone and the Gin Kings to be a worthy and fierce adversary.

“We’re playing the defending champs coming off a big win. It will take our best for us to have a chance,” Reyes told The STAR ahead of the explosive duel featuring the protagonists of the 2020 finals in the Clark bubble.

Cone’s charges are faced with manpower woes as they tackle a second do-or-die outing in four days. Japeth Aguilar has been ruled out due to MCL sprain while Scottie Thompson remains doubtful after being placed under the league’s health protocol last week.

“As of today (yesterday), Scottie is still out and doubtful for the TNT game. We will remain shorthanded it seems but the guys are in good spirits and ready to play,” said Cone, whose charges need to beat TNT twice to advance. “We know the road is tough but our guys will battle. We’ll go out there, defend and see what we can do.”

Meanwhile, the Bolts are determined to put their first Philippine Cup playoffs perks to good use.

“We’ll go into this (matchup) wanting to win the first game, but it’s gonna be tough,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.

The Road Warriors are looking to give the twice-to-beat Bolts a dose of their own medicine. Last year, Black’s troops, then No. 5, defied the odds and toppled and dethroned No. 4 San Miguel in two games.

Notes: In the aftermath of its 0-11 campaign that led to a dubious record of 19 consecutive losses, Blackwater started tweaking its player roster, too. The Bossing, now under interim coach Ariel Vanguardia, traded Simon Enciso to Terrafirma in exchange for Rashawn McCarthy.

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