TNT ends years of frustration, beats San Miguel for return trip to PBA Finals

Published October 17, 2021, 7:23 PM

by Jonas Terrado

jonasPhoto from PBA

TNT ended years of playoff heartbreak against San Miguel Beer with a convincing performance that resulted in a 97-79 win in the deciding Game 7 of their semifinal series Sunday, Oct. 17 to arrange a showdown with Magnolia for the PBA Philippine Cup crown.

The Tropang Giga made a big response after falling behind at the end of the first quarter with Kelly Williams providing the spark on both ends, rookie Mikey Williams breaking out of the shooting slump and RR Pogoy regained his scoring touch to frustrate the Beermen.

Its precise offensive plays and defensive efforts enabled TNT to take the decider at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga and snap a streak of seven consecutive losses in a playoff series to SMB.

TNT last won in the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals when it swept the best-of-three semifinal series with SMB, which was then known as Petron.

And the series ended like it was in the previous four games — another lopsided score that sent coach Chot Reyes to the finals in his first conference back manning the Tropang Giga sidelines.

“We told the players to let’s look forward to this game. Let’s not dread going into Game 7. Let’s be excited. Let’s look forward because we’re so fortunate, we’re so blessed to be even in this position,” said Reyes. 

“I think that’s the most important thing, when we shifted that thinking and the players bought into it and believed that. In the end, I thought that’s what happened. They came in with great resolve. My job was simply to do that. All the rest, they did it,” he added.

The two Williamses were integral for TNT in the first half after San Miguel took a 23-15 lead going into the second quarter highlighted by four triples.

Kelly registered all of his 11 points and 10 rebounds in the opening two quarters, providing key baskets while guarding June Mar Fajardo in the post while Mikey unloaded 10 of his 20 points in that stretch after spending majority of the series dealing with cold shooting numbers.

Jayson Castro bucked an injured ankle to also provide six points, four rebounds and four assists as TNT wind up taking a 45-36 lead at the break.

From there, the Tropang Giga didn’t waver as Pogoy finished the job on his way to 27 points after struggling in Game 6 even as Troy Rosario and Poy Erram got into the act by delivering the killer blows in the fourth.

SMB, which lost for the first time in five Game 7s under coach Leo Austria, didn’t get scattered contributions from its main players, with Marcio Lassiter going scoreless and Mo Tautuaa being held to two points after hurting his leg, leaving Fajardo to carry the load.

Fajardo’s 22 points and 16 rebounds was his 15th double-double conference, but not enough to send SMB to its sixth Philippine Cup Finals stint in the last seven seasons.

Instead, it will be TNT eyeing its first championship since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup against a Magnolia squad that got the big stage early after finishing off Meralco in six games.

The scores:

TNT 97 — Pogoy 27, M.Williams 20, Rosario 12, K. Williams 11, Erram 9, Reyes 7, Castro 6, Heruela 3, Khobuntin 2, Montalbo 0, Exciminiano 0, Marcelo 0.

SAN MIGUEL 79 — Fajardo 22, Ross 15, Perez 11, Romeo 9, Santos 9, Pessumal 8, Cabagnot 3, Tautuaa 2, Lassiter 0, Sena 0, Zamar 0, Comboy 0.

Qua0rters: 15-23, 45-36, 67-55, 97-79.