By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE TnT Tropang Giga took Game One of their best-of-seven Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup semifinal series with the San Miguel Beermen, 89-88, on Sunday to gain early traction and are now looking to build on the momentum they have built.
While they did a good job in keeping the powerhouse Beermen at bay throughout the contest, it did not come easy for the Tropang Giga as they had to dig deeper than usual, something they expect to continue as the series progresses.
“The only way we can beat this team is for us to put in a stronger effort. They are so strong. If we give a little more effort, then we have a chance,” said TnT coach Chot Reyes following their win in the series-opener. “All we’ve done is give us a 1-0 lead and we need three more wins. Hopefully, we can sustain it,” he added.
The contest got off to a very competitive start with both teams hardly budging and allowing one another much headway.
They fought to a 42-41 count by the halfway point and the Tropang Giga enjoying a slim advantage.
In the third period, the teams continued to fight it out until TnT made a late surge to create some distance.
With the score knotted at 57-all with 3:05 left in the frame, the Tropang Giga went on to outscore the Beermen, 14-3, after to build a 71-60 lead heading into the final quarter.
But San Miguel was not to go down without a fight, continuously charging back in the fourth period to crowd TnT.
It came to within a point, 88-89, with 36 seconds to play after a made layup by CJ Perez.
The Tropang Giga tried to put the game away with a Roger Pogoy triple with 18 seconds to go, but it failed to connect, leaving the Beermen enough time to salvage the win.
Off a time out, San Miguel got the ball to Marcio Lassiter, who managed to put up a shot against the TNT defense as time expired, but did not go through, preserving the victory for the Tropang Giga.
For Mr. Reyes, that San Miguel still had a chance to win in the end speaks volumes of the kind of challenge they are dealing with in the semifinals of the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association tournament and that much is needed from the Tropang Giga if they are to survive it.
“San Miguel can beat you in so many ways. It can be a ball screen, last-second shot, and then isolation, and the post,” the returning PBA coach said.
“This is the deepest, most talented team in the league. We will just play our best,” added Mr. Reyes, whose wards played without veteran Kelly Williams, who entered the league’s health and safety protocols.
Mr. Pogoy seconded his coach, saying, “It’s very tough. You have to bring your A-game each time to be able to beat San Miguel.”
The gunner out of Far Eastern University led the Tropang Giga in Game One, finishing with 23 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals to win player of the game honors.
Jayson Castro had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists while JP Erram and Troy Rosario added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Leading scorer Mikey Williams only had seven points, but had eight rebounds and six assists.
For San Miguel, it was Mr. Perez who top-scored with 23 points, followed by June Mar Fajardo with 13 and Arwind Santos 12 points.
The rest of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinal schedule will be released by the league on Tuesday.