SMB death squad Vs TNT Firebomb

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
SMB death squad Vs TNT Firebomb
The TNT Tropang Giga and the San Miguel Beermen share the stage in a media conference ahead of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven championship showdown beginning tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
STAR / File

PBA Philippine Cup Finals

MANILA, Philippines — The battle line is drawn as TNT and San Miguel Beer, two high-powered squads brimming with talent and resolve, get set to dispute the PBA’s crown jewel.

Proudly standing on one side are the Tropang Giga, flag bearers of the PLDT and MVP Group who are out to extend their reign in the pro league’s most prestigious tournament.

On the other side are the Beermen, the banner holders for the San Miguel Corp. (SMC) conglomerate who are on a spirited quest to return to the top after a three-year dry spell.

The protagonists themselves see this explosive best-of-seven confrontation for the PBA Philippine Cup that kicks off tomorrow as ”too close to call.”

“It’s 50/50,” TNT coach Chot Reyes said during yesterday’s pre-finals media conference at Novotel. “The important thing for us is to stay patient and understand how difficult this series is going to be. We know how strong the other team is and we just need to be prepared.”

He was echoed by Leo Austria.

“Both teams are really competitive and are really preparing very hard for this series. We’ll see what happens,” the SMB mentor said.

The two multi-titled tacticians have at their disposal some of the best players in the pro league today.

Jayson Castro, Mikey Williams, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Poy Erram and Kelly Williams spearhead Reyes’ TNT crew. June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Jericho Cruz and Vic Manuel banner Austria’s SMB bunch.

“If you take a look at both sides, it’s very evenly-matched. San Miguel is not only June Mar. The strength of San Miguel is their depth. We can’t just focus on June Mar because the other guys in the perimeter will kill you. Then there’s Rodney (Brondial), Vic and Mo (Tautuaa)  as well. You can see the magnitude of our problem,” said Reyes. “But I have great faith in my team. This team simply doesn’t quit, they fight until the end.”

For Austria, stopping TNT spitfire Mikey Williams alone won’t do it. “Mikey is not TNT; all of their players present a threat. They have a lot of players who can score a lot.”

San Miguel is embarking on this mission with essentially a new-look lineup. Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot, two key elements of their All-Filipino five-peat and last championship in the Commissioner’s Cup in 2019, are already gone.

“There’s a lot of similarities and there’s a lot of differences, too (between the old champion team and the current batch). We’ve all evolved. The Death Five was at the time of pre-pandemic and it’s like post-pandemic now. At the end of the day, we want to win four more games. The next seven games are going to be tough. But we’re ready for the challenge,” said Ross.


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