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Sports

Tropang Giga reach finale

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
Tropang Giga reach finale
Jayson Castro
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — In the end, TNT’s hard work and great resolve prevailed over San Miguel Beer’s vast experience and spotless record in Game 7s.

The highly-determined Tropang Giga went all-out to beat the seasoned Beermen in the semis sudden death, 97-79, and return to the PBA Philippine Cup finals yesterday in Bacolor, Pampanga.

The Tropang Giga, who emerged victorious in the four odd-numbered semis games versus SMB, arranged a championship showdown with Magnolia beginning next week. The Hotshots advanced last Friday after beating the Meralco Bolts in the sixth match, 93-85.

“Sa five years ko sa PBA, palagi kaming natatalo sa playoffs ng San Miguel. So going into the game, sobrang motivated talaga ako na makabawi sa kanila,” said RR Pogoy, who torched SMB with 27 points spiked by 4-of-6 three-point shooting.

TNT coach Chot Reyes said a change in mindset helped the Tropang Giga get ready for the decider against SMB, which was 4-0 in previous winner-take-all seventh games.

Reyes said he told TNT that the squad should be “very happy to be on a 3-3 tie” despite starting center Kelly Williams skipping in the first four games and backup Poy Erram sustaining a fractured cheekbone in the middle of the series.

“I told them let’s look forward to Game 7, let’s not dread going to Game 7. I thought that’s the most important thing, when we shifted thinking and the players bought in and believed,” said Reyes, who’s back in the PBA finals since leading TNT to a Philippine Cup three-peat in 2012.

“In the end, I thought that’s what happened. They came in with a great resolve. But my job was simply to do that, all the rest they did it. They put in all the effort, they’re the ones who executed, made the shots, made the defensive stops.

“We’re just fortunate to be in the finals,” he added.

Reyes’ troops came in with a strong performance in the middle quarters to wrest control after trailing by eight in the first 12 minutes of play.

Mickey Williams fired eight of his 20 in the second period as TNT turned things around with a 30-13 exchange and seized a 45-36 edge.

Pogoy took over and rifled in 10 in the third as the Tropang Giga kept the Beermen at bay, 67-55.

The duo then joined forces with Troy Rosario and Poy Erram in the mop-up.

June Mar Fajardo banged in 22 with 16 boards to lead the Beermen, whose bid was hurt by the injuries suffered by Mo Tautuaa and Terrence Romeo in the second half.

The Tropang Giga gave themselves another crack at the PBA’s crown jewel after yielding a 1-4 loss to Barangay Ginebra in last year’s finale.

After hurdling the Gin Kings in the quarterfinals and then the Beermen in the Final Four, Reyes and his troops brace for another dogfight with the Hotshots up next in the race-to-four championship.

“The job isn’t over. There’s still another huge mountain to climb that’s playing very, very well,” Reyes, referring to the Hotshots.

TNT will engage Magnolia in a titular dispute for the first time since the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup. The Hotshots, then flying the San Mig Coffee colors, won it as part of their grand slam feat.

SAN MIGUEL BEER
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