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PBA: Dogfight in TNT, Meralco KO duel

Game Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Meralco vs TNT KaTropa

The intensity is expected to reach a boiling point as the Meralco Bolts and TNT KaTropa dispute the remaining semifinals berth tonight in the deciding Game 3 of their quarterfinal series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Meralco forged tonight’s lone 7 p.m. duel after surviving a five-minute overtime period and the loss of import Alex Stepheson because of six personal fouls to win 103-100 two days earlier.

The hard-fought victory came after a lackluster showing that allowed TNT to take Game 1 without much difficulty, 102-84.

With a spot in a best-of-five semifinal series with top seed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on the line, the two squads are bracing for another thrilling showdown.

“I expect Friday to be a dogfight, I expect my guys to fight again like they did (in Game 2),” said Meralco coach Norman Black, whose win came in timely manner after losing four straight games that started late in the elimination round.

“But at the same time, we know the other side is very talented and they can bounce back anytime so we really have to be ready,” he added.

Black is hoping to get the same performance from his ace playmaker Baser Amer, who dropped a career-high 32 points that allowed the Bolts to survive after squandering a double-digit lead late in regulation.

He is also banking on Stepheson to play his old self after getting into foul trouble early.

The hulking American had seven points and 13 rebounds but the statistic appeared to have overshadowed what was a recovery from a lousy Game 1 performance that dismayed Black.

Stepheson had three early fouls, but the Bolts raced to a big first quarter lead that left the KaTropa to play catch up for most of the contest.

TNT coach Nash Racela rued the lost chance of sweeping the series as his team managed to force overtime despite playing catch up most of the way, only to lose steam in the extension.

“We just want to take it one possession at a time, I think they were rushing it at the start,” Racela said. “We weren’t able to settle down, that’s why were able to dug a hole, masyadong malalim.”

Among those who struggled for TNT was Jayson Castro, who went 2-of-13 from the field for 12 points before fouling out in overtime. Castro, usually calm and collected, had moments of frustration because of his predicament.

But Castro is eager to redeem himself and show the performance he had in Game 1 when he fired 25 points.