Double knockout match today to decide PBA bubble finalists

Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - November 27, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  Expect the AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City, Pampanga to be transformed into a suspense theater today as four teams battle for survival in a double knockout match for coveted spots in the PBA Philippine Cup finals.

With the pair of best-of-five semifinals both tied at two games apiece, it’s now or never for the main protagonists as they try to settle their unfinished business once for all in the deciding Game 5.

The Barangay Ginebra Kings will confront the Meralco Bolts for one last time in the PBA bubble at 6:30 p.m., while the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters and the TNT Tropang Giga seek to put a definitive end on their scathing rivalry as they collide in the 3:45 p.m. opener.

After surging to a 2-1 lead, the Kings and the Fuel Masters were needing only a win to breeze through the championship round but their trip was stalled by their resilent, never-day-die foes in Game 4 thriller last Wednesday night.

Banking on the endgame dexterity of Reynel Hugnatan and Chris Newsome and the game-saving block of Raymond Almazan on Stanley Pringle, the Bolts jolted the Kings, 83-30, to extend the series into its full route.

Likewise, the Tropang Giga lived and fight for another day after overcoming a late Phoenix fightback to hold off the Fuel Masters via a 102-101 cliffhanger, thanks to the 36-point explosion of Bobby Ray Parks.

Now that the series has been reduced to a winner-take-all affair, it all boils down to who is the hungrier and more determined team.

For Meralco coach Norman Black, it’s going to be another tough challenge for them but he likes their chances of slaying another giant just like what they did to the five-time defending champion San Miguel Beermen in the playoffs.

“Just like in our battle with San Miguel, we have to win two games to move to the next stage. We’re halfway through,” Black said in a report by PBA.ph. “We had a lot of guys coming in and playing their roles. As long as our guys can play their roles, we’ll have a chance.”

On the other hand, TNT coach Bong Ravena is hoping that they could sustain their momentum as they attempt to extinguish the Fuel Masters’ dream of reaching the finals for the first time since they joined Asia’s first pro league after acquiring the Barako Bull franchise in 2016.

“Our main goal is to just simply win the game, make the series even so we had to come out with our strongest starter na si Jayson,” Ravena said after their series-tying triumph. “Hopefully, we could continue with it in Game 5 on Friday.”

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