TNT barged its way to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals after blowing past Phoenix Super LPG, 91-81, in the deciding fifth game of their semifinal series Friday night at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Ray Parks came up big once again, scoring 26 points on 9-of-18 shooting with 10 rebounds and six assists in a performance that enabled the Tropang Giga to advance to the championship series for the 19th time in franchise history.
Parks wasn’t the only player to deliver when it mattered as TNT found a big lift from Simon Enciso and veteran Jay Washington in the first half before Jayson Castro and RR Pogoy lent a hand in creating a 17-point lead which came midway in the fourth quarter.
Calvin Abueva had 23 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three blocks but Phoenix fell short of reaching the PBA’s big dance for the first time ever.
Instead, it will be TNT which earned a second finals berth in three conferences with a chance to capture its first championship since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup.
The flagship franchise of Manny V. Pangilinan also made the Philippine Cup Finals for the first time since winning three in a row from 2011 to 2013.
“It’s good to be back in the finals but I have to commend the players, especially Ray and the veterans because they stepped up,” said TNT coach Bong Ravena.
TNT will face Barangay Ginebra San Miguel or Meralco in a best-of-seven title showdown which starts Sunday night inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble.
Ginebra and Meralco are contesting the other spot in the Finals as of posting time.
Enciso had 12 points, Washington came through with a vintage performance of 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, Castro had 11 points and six assists and Pogoy added 11 points and five boards.
TNT led by a high of 10 in the first quarter before going into the second ahead 25-20 with Enciso scoring eight spiked by two triples.
Washington, averaging just 4.2 points in the bubble, hit six in the second including a corner three that gave TNT a 40-34 halftime advantage.
That set the stage for Parks to shine, pumping in 22 points in the second half as he had every answer to Phoenix’s numerous attempts to at least draw level.
In fact, TNT needed a big run to avoid any doubts, resulting in a 75-58 lead on a Pogoy three with over seven minutes left in the payoff period.
The Tropang Giga also held Fuel Masters star Matthew Wright to 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting after averaging 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4.
“Hindi mo pwedeng iwanan si Matthew. Talagang he will score, even a half court shot. He will shoot. So isa sa mga pinaghandaan namin,” said Ravena.
Jason Perkins also had a quiet showing for Phoenix despite ending the night with 11 points and 11 rebounds and five assists.
Phoenix had hopes of going to the finals under rookie coach Topex Robinson after taking a 2-1 lead with victories in Games 2 and 3, only to spend the latter part of the series trying to counter TNT’s every move.
TNT 91 — Parks 26, Enciso 12, Washington 11, Pogoy 11, Castro 11, Erram 9, Carey 4, Montalbo 3, Rosario 4, Reyes 0.
PHOENIX 81 — Abueva 23, Wright 13, Perkins 1