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TNT, Meralco shoot for semis slots

SANDWICHED Magnolia’s Mark Barroca (left) and Paul Lee (right) jockey for position with Meralco’s Cliff Hodge during their elimination round game on Feb. 26, 2023, which the Bolts won 86-84, and are looking for a repeat victory against the Hotshots when they clash again tonight, March 22, in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinal round. PBA IMAGE

TOP seed TNT and fourth seed Meralco aim to finish off their respective quarterfinal foes right away and advance to the best-of-five semifinal series as the 2022-23 PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs continues at the Smart Araneta Coliseum today, March 22, 2023.

The Tropang Giga and the Bolts have a twice-to-beat advantage over their respective quarterfinal foes.

The Tropang Giga closed the elimination round with a league-best 10-1 record under new coach Jojo Lastimosa en route to snaring the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

TNT will be aiming for another win heading to its 3 p.m. collision with the eighth-seed Phoenix squad to secure a spot in the Final Four.

Lastimosa said despite their dominance in the elims, he has reminded his wards to remain hungry and not take the Fuel Masters for granted.

“Of course the stake is higher but the game remains the same. We need to prepare for anything, just like what our opponent is doing,” Lastimosa said.

Leading TNT’s title bid is do-it-all import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who leads the Best Import derby behind his impressive stats line of 31.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.0 block shot per game averages.

Since coming over to take the spot of the high-scoring Jalen Hudson, the Tropang Giga have won their last five games, and have no plans of slowing down heading into the opening round of the playoffs.

TNT’s talent depth is what makes the team even more scary as Hollis-Jefferson has explosive shooting guard Roger Pogoy as one of his solid support crew.

The sweet-shooting Pogoy averaged 20.6 points, to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in the elimination round.

What makes the former Far Eastern U standout is his scorching 54 percent shooting from three-point zone.

TNT also has Filipino American Mikey Williams (16.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists), Calvin Oftana (13.7 ppg. and 8.4 rpg.) and veteran guard Jayson Castro (10.4 ppg., 3.0 apg.) to supply added artillery.

No wonder, the Tropang Giga are tipped to beat the Fuel Masters, who won just four games in the tournament so far under interim coach Jamike Jarin.

Still, Phoenix won’t simply roll and die against a stacked-up TNT squad, with import Du’Vaughn Maxwell, Jason Perkins and a bunch of young turks led by Javee Mocon, and rookies Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano leading the way.

Meanwhile, Meralco also has no plans of giving an inch against Magnolia in their 5:45 p.m. match. The Bolts will try to win it tonight and advance to the semis.

The Bolts escaped by the skin of their teeth 86-84 during their elimination round encounter with the Hotshots on February 26.

Meralco coach Norman Black isn’t expecting a walk in the park when they play Magnolia, which has always been known for its choking defense and solid team rebounding.

Interestingly, the import matchup will also feature a pair of returning imports.

Meralco’s KJ McDaniels is back for a third PBA tour of duty and leads the rebounding among imports with his 16.2 boards per contest.

He’ll be ranged against hulking Antonio Hester, who helped Magnolia reach the postseason behind its seven wins in the last eight games after starting the conference at 0-3 under original import Eric McCree.

Hester is providing the inside presence Magnolia needed in the absence of ailing big man Ian Sangalang.

The wide-bodied American averaged 27.9 points, 15.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists in eight games for the Hotshots.


Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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