By JONAS TERRADO
The corporate rivalry of San Miguel Corporation and MVP Group heats up as two teams from each side start their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinals Sunday 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.
Both series could go down the distance with the way they performed both in the eliminations and the quarters.
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 ago in their do-or-die quarters match.
The result of their elimination round matches won’t be necessarily an indication as to 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 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.”