THE number eight seeds Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings collide with the top-seeded TnT Tropang Giga in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals with a twice-to-win disadvantage. — PBA IMAGES
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THEY may be the defending champions, but the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings know they are in for a tough battle against the top-seeded TnT Tropang Giga in the quarterfinals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup this week.
Barely made it to the playoffs, the number eight seeds Kings will collide with the Tropang Giga facing a twice-to-win disadvantage.
Making it tougher for them is they are set to miss the services of athletic big man apeth Aguilar, out for the rest of the tournament because of a knee injury, and possibly do-it-all guard Scottie Thompson, who entered the league’s health and safety protocols and has yet to be cleared to play.
But the Kings are not allowing the daunting task to weigh on them too much, and instead looking to dig deep and work with the cards they are dealt with the best way they can.
“We could quit or we could stand up and continue to fight,” said Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone after their 95-85 victory on Saturday in their do-or-die match for the last quarterfinal ticket with the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
The many-time champion PBA coach was describing how things have gone for them in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament, particularly in the “semi-bubble” in Pampanga.
Since the league relocated to the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor from the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City on Sept. 1 because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in Metro Manila, the Kings hardly made strides, winning only two of their seven matches to finish with a 4-7 record.
It forced them to nearly miss the quarterfinals, risking being the first defending champions to miss the playoffs since the Shell team in 2000.
Compared that to their quarterfinal opponent TnT, which has been steady throughout the eliminations, finishing with a nearly unblemished 10-1 record to secure the top seed and seemingly not about done in dominating.
“They (Tropang Giga) are playing extremely good basketball. They’ve hardly been touched,” Mr. Cone said.
“Aside from that, they pretty much dominated just about everybody. We know our road is tough, there is no doubt about it. But our guys will battle,” he added.
And the “mission” is not lost to the Barangay Ginebra players.
“Coach Tim keeps telling us that if there is a player down, we should have a next-man-up mentality. We have to step up and play as a team,” said big man Prince Caperal, who was named best player of the game in their win-or-go home match against Phoenix.
In their lone encounter in the elimination round on Sept. 12, TnT defeated Barangay Ginebra, 88-67.
It was a convincing win that saw the Tropang Giga take control of the opening half and check any fightback attempts by the Kings the rest of the way.
Rookie Mikey Williams led the way for TnT in the win, finishing with a game-high 27 points, with Troy Rosario and Jayson Castro adding 14 points apiece.
Mr. Aguilar, meanwhile, paced the Kings with 18 points.
The date and time of the TnT-Barangay Ginebra quarterfinal joust will be known on Tuesday when the league releases its schedule for the week.