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One final kick came through, another was stopped and after Day 1 of skirmishes in the PBA Philippine Cup semi-finals, Magnolia and TNT finished ahead of separate foes in Sunday’s best-of-seven series that many hold promise. to complete the trajectory.
Calvin Abueva was the catalyst of the fourth quarter for the Hotshots as he survived some serious trouble to save Magnolia in an 88-79 win over Meralco, while the top-ranked Tropang Giga held on to life when everything was balanced against San Miguel Beer and took a tightrope walk 89-88 win in the gym of Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Abueva, an all-rounder who missed last year’s final after Phoenix fell short by a win, scored eight of 13 points in the payout period so the Hotshots wouldn’t collapse again at the hands of the Bolts.
Defense does it
“He was really a big help. He got rebounds, provided energy both offensively and defensively,” said coach Chito Victolero of Abueva, who he brought on the field at the risk of making another mistake, just like that loss against Meralco during the eliminations where Magnolia blew a double-digit spread in the dying minutes losing by 1. “It’s very different to have Calvin on the ground,” Victolero continued.
Though it was an attack that took it out for the Hotshots, the Tropang Giga needed all their defensive genius to hold off the Beermen.
TNT led 10 in the bottom of the fourth, only to see the Beermen come back and get a chance to win it in the literal dying second until Marcio Lassiter was forced to miss a floating jumper. “San Miguel can beat you in different ways. It could be the last shot of the ball screen, an isolation game, [or through the] after. We just said let’s play our defense the best we can and we’ll see what happens,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes.
Roger Pogoy led all TNT shooters by 23 points, while Jayson Castro, Poy Erram and Troy Rosario all finished in double digits in a balanced effort that overtook San Miguel for most of the night.
Not wanting to go down without a fight, CJ Perez and Arwind Santos took turns making heavy shot after heavy shot to bring the Beermen to the final score with nine seconds left.
3-sided Magnolia Attack
Pogoy, who scored his best goal here, was also the one to pick up Lassiter defensively in the final heat, preventing a stunning comeback.
“I think the key was that we believed we could compete with them and then expected them to come back,” Reyes said of the only team to beat them in the eliminations. “They are too talented, too experienced, not to come back.” The TNT defense also forced the Beermen 23 errors, resulting in 23 Tropang Giga points.
“You really have to bring your A-game to beat [the Beermen]’ said Pogoy.
“The only way we can win this series is to put in more effort. If we put in a little more effort than the other team, we have a chance. But it’s a huge effort,” said Reyes.
Abueva’s late-game efforts sealed the early exploits of Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee, who finished with 18 and 17 points respectively in the hotly contested series opener where neither side was willing to concede an inch until the final four minutes.
Game 2s of both series are likely to be played on Wednesday after the league carries out its mandatory health protocols. INQ
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