IT’S not just one pair of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals that features clubs from the same conglomerate going at it against one another.
While San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra wage war on one side, TNT Katropa and Meralco engage each other in a fierce battle not only for Manny V. Pangilinan’s good graces, but more importantly for a spot in the finals of the season-ending conference.
The Texters have been on a tear, winning all but one of their 12 games, including the playoffs, so far this conference as they have banked on a tournament-best offense that produces 111.6 points per game, while also being No. 1 in rebounding at 52.8 boards and second in fast-break points at 15.3.
The Bolts, on the other hand, are second in the conference in assists with 24.3 dishes per contest and third in the tournament in turnover points at 20.8. But they’ve done the most damage on the defensive end as they’re No. 1 in least rebounds allowed (43.1), least assists allowed (17.9), and least fastbreak points allowed (9.2), while ranking second in least second-chance points allowed (12.2).
TNT nipped Meralco, 98-95, in their elimination-round meeting last July, winning while Mario Little was still their import and Troy Rosario was still sidelined due to a knee injury.
The Bolts, though, saw import Allen Durham hobbled by a broken nose that limited him to a conference-low 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting in 40 minutes, while Asian import Mohmmad Jamshidi was still in tow, but was hardly a factor.
Now, the sister squads parade more cohesive lineups since their last meeting as they face off anew in the best-of-five series starting with Game One on Tuesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Here are their matchups:
Mychal Ammons has been the perfect complement to the Texters’ powerhouse local crew, allowing them to shine on offense while he does the dirty work on defense. While his offensive numbers (15.4 points) have hardly been import-worthy, he makes it up for it with his hustle and energy as he has averaged 14.9 boards on top of 1.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals in 31.6 minutes.
Plus, the Texters have an Asian import in Mike Madanly to shoulder more of the offensive load as the Syrian sniper has normed 14.4 points in 26 minutes.
The Bolts boast a do-it-all reinforcement in Durham, who has averaged 30.8 points, 14.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.3 blocks, and 1.2 steals in 41.7 minutes.
While deferring to Jayson Castro often this conference, Ranidel de Ocampo has shown he can still take over for TNT. For his frontline partner, the 34-year-old stretch forward has a younger version of himself in Troy Rosario, who is slowly but surely getting his groove back after being out earlier in the conference due to that knee injury.
Cliff Hodge has always been the Bolts’ energizer bunny and was the team’s top scorer with 18 points along with eight boards against the Texters in their regular-season meeting. The Filipino-American workhorse partners with Bryan Faundo, who has only shown flashes of being worthy to start for coach Norman Black.
Castro has played like he’s the Texters’ import, with the latest evidence his 42-point explosion in just 27 minutes in their quarterfinal win over Phoenix. Expect the Best Player of the Conference race frontrunner to sustain his sizzling play.
Ryan Reyes has always fit perfectly as Castro’s partner, hitting the three-ball consistently, while being the team’s best perimeter defender.
Jimmy Alapag has been the missing piece that has completed the Bolts’ puzzle, bringing them to the next level with his playmaking and leadership. Let’s see if he can teach his apprentice, Castro, another lesson.
The former Gilas captain has a young partner in Chris Newsome, who has more than lived up to being the Bolts’ top rookie pick last year, leading the locals in scoring this conference.
Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams, Kris Rosales, Mo Tautuaa, and Harvey Carey comprise the TNT second five that can start for most teams. The Texters’ bench is so deep that Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, who’s recovering from injury, Jai Reyes, two-time Best Player of the Conference Danny Siegle, and former UAAP MVP Dylan Ababou can hardly crack the rotation.
Jared Dillinger leads the Bolts’ bench mob that also has Reynel Hugnatan, Baser Amer, and Kelly Nabong pitching in.
Jong Uichico has nine championships, two less than Norman Black’s haul, although the former’s last title coming more recently in last year’s Commissioner’s Cup.
The Texters clearly have the advantage man for man and will look to finish off the Bolts as fast as they can. Black has always been a master of adjustments in a long career, but it will take more than 'old Black magic' to get Meralco over the hump in this classic 'big brother vs kid brother' match-up. TNT is just too strong and too good for Meralco right now.