The Clash of the Titans is on.
Talk ‘N Text arranged a colossal semifinal showdown with San Miguel Beer in the PBA Philippine Cup last night after dispatching error-plagued Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in their do-or-die, 83-67, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tropang Texters coach Jong Uichico, who took over from Norman Black during the off-season, is now in a position to put away his second former ballclub, with Game 1 of their best-of-7 series against the top seed Beermen on Friday, 7 p.m., at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Uichico handled SMB for six years from 1999 and won six championships before calling the shots at Ginebra for five years, delivering two more titles. He accepted an assistant coaching job with Meralco in 2012.
“It’s just a game we needed to win,” said Uichico when asked whether it was bittersweet for him to send off his former team. “Regardless who we faced, we needed to win to get to the semis.”
While a spot in the semis may be something the Texters craved, the win was equally important to erase a stigmatic loss during the inaugurals where Ginebra blew them away, 101-81, before a crowd of 50,000 at the Philippine Arena.
Uichico refused to take anything away from Ginebra’s triumph that evening though, brushing aside suggestions the loss may have been a fluke.
“No it wasn’t,” he said. “It was more of nangangapa pa kami ng mga players sa isa’t isa since it was our first game. But we got to know each other as the conference wore on.”
TNT was without Gilas Pilipinas mainstays Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo that game. But the two were around to cause damage this time.
Alapag had 7 points in 8 minutes while De Ocampo backed up Jayson Castro’s 23 points with 17 and 5 rebounds while working around deftly past the Kings’ big men.
From 52-all, in the third quarter, TNT raced to an 83-67 advantage against a poorly-organized opponent that committed 15 turnovers and was scoreless in the final four minutes of the most important game of its season so far.
Both teams threw bricks in the first half which ended tied 40-all after TNT missed 13 of 14 treys and Ginebra clanged 12 of 14 from beyond the arc.
De Ocampo was 1 of 5 for the Texters, Jay Washington 0 of 3, and Castro and Larry Fonacier 0 of 4 combined. Mac Baracael was 0 of 5 for the Kings and Mark Caguioa 0 for 2.
Jumping on Ginebra’s 7-of-24 shooting (29 percent) in the second quarter, TNT took a 30-22 lead after scoring the period’s first 5 points. But Caguioa had six points in a 9-2 run as the Kings rallied to wrest the lead, 35-34, bringing everything back to square one.
The first 24 minutes produced no significant play except for one in the closing seconds of the opening period when Ginebra backup guard Chris Monfort beat the buzzer with a 3 over Alapag to cut a TNT lead to 25-22.
Greg Slaughter took just one shot for Ginebra in the first half and Japeth Aguilar two, with the Kings’ Triple Tower cut down and held scoreless.
Meanwhile, the Final Four clash between Rain or Shine and Alaska gets underway at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The scent of revenge will hang heavy in the air as the Aces look to get back at the Elasto Painters after getting ousted in five games during the 2013 Governors Cup semifinals last June.
Game 4 of that series is best remembered for a semis-ending knee injury Alaska point guard Jayvee Casio suffered with seconds remaining in overtime that allowed Rain or Shine to dodge the bullet and forge a deciding fifth game.
With Casio on the bench, Rain or Shine went on to win Game 5 and advance to the Finals against eventual Grand Slam champion San Mig Super Coffee.
TALK N’ TEXT 83 – Castro 23, De Ocampo 17, Rosser 13, Alas 8, Carey 7, Reyes R.J. 6, Aban 4, Fonacier 3, Washington 2, Alapag 0, Reyes R. 0, Williams 0, Espiritu 0, Seigle 0.
GINEBRA 67 – Tenorio 15, Yeo 10, Aguilar 9, Slaughter 8, Caguioa 8, Mamaril 6, Monfort 3, Reyes 3, Baracael 3, Ellis 2, Forrester 0, Urbiztondo 0, Helterbrand 0, Brondial 0.
Quarters: 25-22, 40-40, 65-58, 83-67