TNT earned a return trip to the PBA Philippine Cup finals by eliminating Magnolia, 87-74, in a highly-emotional and highly-physical semifinal series on Sunday.
Old hand Jayson Castro again showed the way for the reigning champions, finishing with 26 points in the Game 6 win that wrapped up the best-of-seven series, 4-2.
It will be the third straight finals stint in the all-Filipino conference for the telecommunication giant.
The Tropang Giga will meet the winner of the sudden-death between top seed San Miguel and Meralco in the other semifinal pairing.
Castro was 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, including the one he hit at the 2:51 mark to make it an 80-72 lead after Magnolia battled back from a 12-point deficit to suddenly threaten at 72-76.
Mikey Williams added 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while Glenn Khobuntin had 14 on 3-of-6 shooting from three-point range, the last of which put the final nail on Magnolia’s coffin, 86-74, with 1:19 to go.
Ian Sangalang had a double-double 16 points and 12 rebounds for Magnolia, while Abueva also had 16 but was held scoreless the entire second half.
After scoring a game-high 25 points in Magnolia’s 105-97 win in Game 5, Mark Barroca had a bad night for the Hotshots as he was held to just three points on 1-of-10 shooting from the floor, although he finished with nine assists.
The Hotshots failed to advance in the finals after engaging the Tropang Giga in the title series of the same conference last year at the Bacolor bubble.
TNT (87) -- Castro 26, M.Williams 15, Pogoy 14, Khobuntin 11, Erram 8, K.Williams 4, Rosario 4, Montalbo 2, Reyes 0, Marcelo 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Magnolia (74) -- Sangalang 16, Abueva 16, Jalalon 11, Lee 10, Dela Rosa 6, Laput 4, Wong 3, Barroca 3, Dionisio 2, Escoto 2, Corpuz 1, Brill 1, Reavis 0, Ahanmisi 0, Zaldivar 0.
Quarterscores: 21-17; 42-34; 60-55; 87-74.
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