Magnolia ran at every chance to bring TNT to its knees for a 100-93 victory in a PBA Governors’ Cup Petron Blaze Saturday showdown at University of Southeastern Philippines Gym in Davao.
But the Hotshots weren’t the only ones celebrating.
San Miguel Beer, struggling to gain headway in a tournament where it is seeking to complete a rare Grand Slam, suddenly found an opportunity to boost its triple-crown bid.
The Beermen take a shot at the KaTropa on Wednesday in Antipolo City—both teams’ final assignment—with a chance to grab the fourth twice-to-beat bonus entering the quarterfinals and stay away from a potential playoff showdown with Barangay Ginebra.
Romeo Travis had 21 points for the Hotshots, who dealt TNT a third loss in 10 outings. That was a key assist to the Beermen, who can catch TNT at 7-4 and tab the No. 4 slot—and playoff protection—on a winner-over-the-other tiebreak.
Until that Hotshots victory, the Beermen’s dream of a season sweep looked bleak. Had the KaTropa won, they would have notched the last twice-to-beat advantage and forced San Miguel into a potential showdown with dangerous Ginebra.
Chris Banchero and Paul Lee both had 13 points while Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca each scored nine in the victory that put the Hotshots at No. 6. Magnolia could face either TNT and San Miguel in the quarterfinals.
The KaTropa, playing sans Jayson Castro, got the goods mostly from KJ McDaniels, who finished with a double-double of 33 points and 15 rebounds.
Ray Parks Jr. put together his finest performance in a TNT uniform, scoring 21 to go with eight boards, five assists and a steal.
Roger Pogoy chipped in 13 points and fueled a late-game rally by the KaTropa, along with McDaniels and Parks. The trio nearly overhauled a 23-point lead by Magnolia but fell short in the end.
Magnolia will thus face tall odds in its bid to defend its crown as it will need to score back-to-back wins against its quarterfinal opponent to reach the semifinals.
The Gin Kings, meanwhile, try to better their playoff position when they tackle NorthPort at 6:45 p.m., when the league flies back to Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
The Batang Pier are looking to catch the playoffs with a victory, with coach Pido Jarencio reminding his wards that all their matches in the past week are virtual KO games.
Rain or Shine battles Meralco at 4:30 p.m.
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