By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters shoot for a spot in the finals of the PBA Philippine Cup when they trek back to the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena in Pampanga on Wednesday.
Up 2-1 in their respective best-of-five semifinal series, the Gin Kings and Fuel Masters use one of their two chances to set up a date in the championship of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Filipino tournament.
Barangay Ginebra reengages the Meralco Bolts in the 3:45 p.m. curtain-raiser while Phoenix takes on the TNT Tropang Giga in the 6:30 p.m. main game.
The Kings seized the driver’s seat anew in their series after their 91-84 victory in Game Three, where they came out with more bounce and consistency in their game to rule the contest from point to point.
Stanley Pringle led a balance by Barangay Ginebra, finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
He was backstopped by big man Prince Caperal, who had 15 points, with LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar adding 12 each.
Joe Devance was the other Kings in double digits with 10 points.
Barangay Ginebra has been dominant in their wins, beating Meralco by an average margin of 12 points.
But despite that, Kings coach Tim Cone is still wary of the tough challenge they are set to face in Game Four from the Bolts, describing it as a “great force.”
“It’s a ping-pong match. You have good teams playing. It’s not easy to roll over Meralco, They’re going to come back… [we have to] build a good force to beat what we know will be a great force in the next game,” said Mr. Cone following their Game Three victory.
It is the same sentiment Mr. Pringle had, saying “We have to do a better job in our execution if we are to close things out.”
FIRST FINAL APPEARANCE
Meanwhile, Phoenix is girding for what could be the most important game in franchise history as a win over TNT thrusts the former to its first-ever finals appearance in the PBA.
The Fuel Masters put themselves in such a position with a gutsy 92-89 win in Game Three. In yet another close fight between the two teams, Phoenix held strong down the stretch amid a ferocious challenge from TNT.
Matthew Wright, returning to his deadly form after being limited by ankle injury in the first two games, top-scored for Phoenix in Game Three with 25 points.
Calvin Abueva, meanwhile, tallied all-around numbers of 24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block. RJ Jazul and Jason Perkins, for their part, had 11 markers each.
Despite being in a good position to advance to the “Big Dance,” Phoenix coach Topex Robinson said they are not getting ahead of themselves, letting their play decide their fate instead.
“If we can go to the finals, and inspire a lot of people, that’s where we’re headed,” he said.
For TNT, with its back against the wall, the need to recalibrate their game is needed, said coach Bong Ravena.
“They (Phoenix) have been able to read our game so we have to change our game plan. We have to think out of the box,” he said.
But Tropang Giga coach is taking solace in the fact that the series has been a tight one and that they were in the games in each of the time.