June 19, 2017

Ka Tropa, Beermen title showdown promises interesting twists, fireworks

The 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup comes down to a showdown between two dynasties slugging it out in a finale for the first time in six years.

San Miguel Beer looks to stretch its perfect ride in PBA Finals in the last three years while TNT KaTropa, a team on the rise under a young promising coach, hopes to be back right on top after a five-conference title drought.

Even with TNT is still uncertain on the import it’s fielding in the finale, a slam-bang battle looks well in the offing.

The Beermen and the Texters begin their best-of-seven title showdown at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Sobra na, tama na, KaTropa naman,” said TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio to stress their desire to end the Beermen’s reign.
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“Hindi nakakasawang mag-champion. Lagi namin asam ito,” said San Miguel Beer forward Arwind Santos, for their part, during the pre-finals press conference at Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood, Quezon City.

The Beermen are in their 38th finals, gunning for a 24th crown while the Texters are in their 17th championship series, chasing an eighth title.

San Miguel’s is also on track for a possible grand slam, a feat the team has achieved in 1989 with a team led by PBA all-time greats Mon Fernandez, Ricky Brown, Samboy Lim and Hector Calma.

The Beermen are four-of-four in finals since the 2014 Philippine Cup under coach Leo Austria.

For the Texters, one top motivation is to avenge a championship series loss to the Beermen that foiled their own grand slam bid in 2011.
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They had their earlier best-of-seven playoff in the last Philippine Cup semifinals.
The Texters lost that series -- allowing the Beermen to go to the finals and eventually win the crown versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings – as main man Jayson Castro went down with a hamstring injury in Game Six.

Curiously, TNT is again facing a big health concern going into this title showdown.

At posting time, the team was still awaiting clearance by doctors for their injury-hit import. If he’s not cleared to play, the Texters will battle the Beermen with substitute import Mike Myers.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day but two days of rest has helped and like I’ve said I’m ready to play,” said Smith. “I came here with one goal – to help TNT win the championship.”

Uncertainty of the status of the 350-pound TNT import makes it difficult for both teams to figure each other out.

“We don’t know whom we’re preparing for. We may be preparing for Josh Smith and it would turn out that we would face Myers. So we can really figure them out only after Game One,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.

“One thing for sure, we’re facing a team that is well disciplined in what they do. Jayson Castro can make a pass with his eyes closed and for sure there’s a man on the spot that he’s passing the ball. That’s how disciplined TNT is on coach Nash Racela’s plays,” Austria also said. “And they’re dangerous with their shooters.”

Needless to say, the Beermen, the reigning all-Filipino three-peat champs, have lethal weapons on all spots.

The two teams are only expected to go hammer and tongs at each other.