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PBA: TNT, Bolts eye semis showdown

The first time TNT Katropa battled newcomer Phoenix Fuel, the Texters won a closely fought encounter that saw Fuel Masters import Eugene Phelps explode for 49 points.

TNT mainstays Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo are fully aware that Phelps – also known as ‘El Destructor’ – is capable of delivering another destructive performance, and so are ready for it.

Top seeded TNT, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, clashes with No. 8 and first-time quarterfinalist Phoenix in the playoffs today at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.

The game between TNT and Phoenix is set at 5:15 p.m., after the 3 p.m. encounter between No. 4 Meralco and No. 5 Mahindra.

Two days ago, the Bolts defeated the Enforcer, 104-99, in a playoff for No. 4 and a twice-to-beat advantage, turning their matchup into a virtual best-of-three series, with Meralco needing just one win to advance in the best-of-five semifinal series.

Castro and De Ocampo both said that Phelps is their primary target defensively, as the 6-foot-5 import has averaged a league-best 36.3 points and 19.8 rebounds with 3.9 assists.

“Alam natin ano kayang gawin nung import nila, and magaling talaga lalo na pag nabigyan ng bola sa loob. Pero ready naman kami, lalo na sa overall depensa,” said De Ocampo.

“Magaling na player talaga yung import nila,” said Castro. “Kami naman alam na namin yung gagawin namin, basta magtulong-tulong kami sa depensa, hindi lang sa import, sa buong team.”

The Texters downed the Fuel Masters 124-119 last August 19, but Phelps fired 49 points on 18-of-30 shooting from the field and converted 12-of-17 from the foul line while adding 18 rebounds.

TNT, however, had a balanced attack as Asian reinforcement Michael Madanly scored 30 points highlighted by eight three-pointers, import Mychal Ammons added 22 points, de Ocampo and Castro had 17 and 11 points, respectively, while rookie Kris Rosales came off the bench with 13 points.

As for Phoenix, coach Ariel Van guardia understands that it’s going to be tough playing the best team after the elimination round as TNT finished with a 10-1 record to gain the No. 1 spot.

But after their 105-94 victory against Commissioner’s Cup champion Rain or Shine in a knockout for the eighth and last quarterfinal berth, Vanguardia said they hope to carry the momentum to the playoffs.

“We feel blessed to have this opportunity to continue playing in the quarterfinals for the first time,” said Vanguardia. “We know it’s going to be tough, but we hope to continue playing well.”

Phelps, who collected 40 points and 14 rebounds against ROS, will be supported by local teammates like Josh Urbiztondo, who came off the bench to contribute 23 points on 5-of-13 three-point shooting, Cyrus Baguio, Willie Wilson, Ronjay Buenafe and comebacking JC Intal.

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