In a rare occasion, the 3 sets of SMC and MVP teams faced a rival from the other group in just one weekend.
Star took on Meralco in the first game of a Saturday double-header at the Ynares Center in Antipolo. The San Miguel Beermen then battled the TNT KaTropa in the main event in a showdown of the two giant company’s flagship teams.
The Hotshots started the ball rolling by dismantling the Bolts by 47-points, 120-73 on the strength of 17 threes, 5 coming from Star’s emerging top gun Allein Maliksi. Meralco thus bowed out in the worst possible way, being blown out on their farewell game. It was the Bolt’s worst defeat in franchise history.
The 2nd match proved to be a thriller as the Beermen pulled out the win only in the closing seconds of the game. TNT was well on its way to dealing top seeded San Miguel its 2nd loss of the tourney when disaster struck. Entering the final 2 minutes of the game, the KaTropa were still ahead by four when their shooters started to miss.
RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario missed on their three-point attempts which the Beermen readily capitalized by scoring on back-to-back possessions courtesy of the reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo.
TNT still had a chance to get back the upperhand but Kelly Williams travelled on his way to the hoop to give possession back to the Beermen.
Alex Cabagnot then delivered the dagger by burying a top of the key three-pointer to the delight of the predominantly San Miguel crowd. Arwind Santos split his free throws for the final score, 98-94.
It was a show of championship class and poise for the defending champions who came into the game with nothing to gain as they already had a lock on the top stop regardless of the outcome.
The 3rd and final match of the ‘Rivals’ series featured the newly crowned Governors’ Cup champs, Brg. Ginebra San Miguel, versus the Yeng Guiao-mentored NLEX Road Warriors.
NLEX jumped the gun in the opening period and took control of the game early on. The Road Warriors established their biggest lead of 17 early in the 2nd period before the Gin Kings made their run to end the half. LA Tenorio sparked a Brgy. Ginebra fightback which eventually cut the lead to four on the strength of a 12-0 run going into the halftime break.
The Gin Kings started the 2nd half on a tear and never looked back, establishing a 15-point lead before settling for a 10-point winning margin which gave the country’s most popular team a quarterfinals ticket – its 29th straight appearance in the playoffs.
So there, it has been a very successful weekend for the SMC group with three emphatic wins tucked under its belt from no less than teams from the rival MVP group.
All three SMC teams are on its way to the next round with the Beermen coming in at number 1 and the Hotshots a surprising possibility at number 2. The Gin Kings are hovering in the 6th and 7th spot and are waiting for the result of the games on Wednesday, February 1 to determine its placing in the quarters. According to PBA head statistician there’s a 75% chance that a Manila Clasico will materialize.
As for the MVP group, 2 of its teams – NLEX and Meralco are in for an early vacation with a struggling TNT left as the only company representative in the quarters.
It was weekend definitely worth remembering for the SMC group and a playoffs worth anticipating as all three of their bets are in the thick of the fight for the 2017 Philippine Cup – Ronald Agbada