Magnolia Pambansang Manok and TNT look to set the tempo for what could possibly be a hard-fought series as the PBA Philippine Cup Finals starts Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The opener of the best-of-seven showdown is set at 6 p.m., with players from both teams expressing how big it would be to win the championship under the difficult circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Both teams have been spending more than a month in Pampanga, trying to chase the ultimate goal of lifting the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy while being away from their families.
“Kaya nga sinabi sacrifice kasi sa dulo andun lahat ng mga pinaghirapan natin,” said Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva. “Now nasa Finals na, kung baga bawi na yung mga sakripisyo. Depende na lang kung sa sino sa dalawang teams ang mapupunta sa top.”
TNT’s Jayson Castro echoed the sentiments of his fellow Kapampangan, but said that winning the series will mean a lot given the franchise’s long title drought.
The Tropang Giga are seeking their first PBA championship since the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup, having lost their previous three trips to the Finals since.
“Lagi na lang kami nasa Finals and then laging natatalo so hopefully this time makuha namin,” said Castro. “But whichever team ang mananalo, deserving talaga kasi di basta-basta ang sacrifice na ginagawa ng both teams.”
The Purefoods franchise won both times over TNT, famously taking the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup crown under the B-Meg banner after import Denzel Bowles sent the deciding Game 7 in overtime with two pressure-packed free throws off a disputed foul on Kelly Williams.
Their second meeting in the same conference in 2014 saw San Mig Super Coffee claim the second jewel of the Grand Slam with a 3-1 series win over TNT, which fell short after an unbeaten run through the eliminations and the playoffs.
Great matchups await a series pitting two teams with deep talents.
Abueva and Ian Sangalang will have their hands full down low against veteran Kelly Williams, Poy Erram and Troy Rosario, who like their counterparts endured bruising battles in the semis.
The firepower at the backcourt spot is also crucial, with TNT rookie Mikey Williams and Magnolia’s Paul Lee while fellow guards Jayson Castro and RR Pogoy for the Tropang Giga and Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon for the Hotshots are also seen to play huge roles.
The two teams will also bank on their other role players like veteran center Rafi Reavis, swingman Rome dela Rosa, forward Jackson Corpuz, guard Justin Melton and sophomore big Aris Dionisio for Magnolia and Ryan Reyes, rugged frontcourt players Dave Marcelo and Glenn Khobuntin, Kib Montalbo and Brian Heruela.
These men won’t succeed without the coaches, with Magnolia’s Chito Victolero and TNT’s Chot Reyes set for an intriguing tactical battle.