The corporate rivalry of San Miguel Corporation and MVP Group heats up as each of their two teams start their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinals Sunday, Oct. 3 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Meralco, pushed to the limit by sister team NLEX in the quarterfinals, battles Magnolia Pambansang Manok at 2 p.m. before TNT and San Miguel Beer slug it out in their series opener at 4:35 p.m.
TNT, holder of the league’s best record, put an end to the title reign of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel with a convincing performance while San Miguel Beer displayed poise in sweeping the young NorthPort squad.
Magnolia also reached the semis by a sweep at the expense of Rain or Shine while Meralco displayed its true form in defeating NLEX, 97-86, two nights earlier in their do-or-die quarters match.
The result of their elimination round matches won’t necessarily be an indication of how the two semis will translate but it does serve as a prelude to how the remaining teams can approach their respective series.
San Miguel was responsible for dealing TNT its only loss in the eliminations with an 83-67 win last Sept. 8. The Beermen rolled to a 16-2 start sparked by Terrence Romeo before holding Tropang Giga rookie Mikey Williams to seven points on 3-of-13 shooting.
“San Miguel kicked our butt in the elimination round, I mean, it wasn’t even close,” TNT coach Chot Reyes said. “They beat us and they beat us badly. We have our work cut out for us because San Miguel is what, the five-time champion before Ginebra won it last conference.”
Perhaps the biggest matchups are the backcourt positions with Williams, Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Ryan Reyes, Kib Montalbo and Brian Heruela of TNT facing Romeo, CJ Perez, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter.
The frontcourt will see SMB’s June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos and Mo Tautuaa opposite TNT’s Troy Rosario, Poy Erram, Kelly Williams and Glenn Khobuntin.
Meralco, meanwhile, has some psychological advantage over Magnolia after rallying from 13 down in the last two minutes to sneak out a thrilling 95-94 win on Chris Newsome’s buzzer-beater.
For Bolts coach Norman Black, the Hotshots will be always be a tough cookie to grind regardless of any type of outcome.
“It’s been a long time since we played Magnolia, so we’ll study to tape to figure out what we did wrong in that game,” Black said. “And let’s face it, too: Magnolia’s a very talented team, and they got even more talented with the addition of Calvin Abueva. They’re a tough out. They’re not an easy team to beat.”
Abueva is expected to be the player to watch in the series as his all-around effort has made the Hotshots even tougher while also maintaining his lead in the Best Player of the Conference award.
Ian Sangalang, Paul Lee, Mark Barroca, Jio Jalalon, Rome dela Rosa and Jackson Corpuz are also seen to provide plenty of trouble for Meralco, which also has a deep lineup that can counter Magnolia.
Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge, Allein Maliksi, Raymond Almazan, Anjo Caram, Mac Belo and rookie Alvin Pasaol will be lead Meralco’s charge while Aaron Black, who has been out due to an injured hand, could make his return in the series.