TNT battles Ginebra; Alaska hopes to keep title exit plan alive
Normally, winning a tough decisive match results in a big prize. TNT went through the wringer before edging NorthPort in overtime last Friday. The Tropang Giga earned a showdown with dangerous Barangay Ginebra with that victory.
So now, nothing matters for TNT coach Chot Reyes—not the gutsy stand against the Batang Pier, not his team’s recent mastery of the Gin Kings—than the Wednesday matchup against the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinal game against the tournament’s reigning champions.
“We’re not even thinking of recent history or even our last game [against NorthPort anymore],” Reyes told the Inquirer on Tuesday of the game that will start at around 6 p.m. “Our only focus now is just preparing for Ginebra.”
TNT did tab something crucial on the way to disposing of NorthPort: Twice-to-beat protection against the Gin Kings. But the Tropang Giga would like nothing more than to send Barangay Ginebra packing the first chance possible, a goal shared by NLEX coach Yeng Guiao.
“Alaska would certainly like to go out in a blaze of glory, so [that is] a big motivation [they will] have coming into the game,” Guiao said in an interview on the league’s website.
And Alaska could be featuring a retooled roster as it hopes to fulfill its dream of ending its decorated PBA stint on the shoulders of a championship celebration.
The Aces have flown in Mark Saint Fort, a 33-year-old Bahamian coming off a tour in Japan. Saint Fort will be measured by the PBA office on Wednesday, in time to potentially suit up for Alaska in the 3 p.m. encounter against NLEX, which will parade Cameron Clark.
“Mark was the guy we were going to replace Olu [Ashaolu] with when he hurt his calf during the Blackwater game,” Aces coach Jeff Cariaso told the Inquirer on Tuesday. “But the surge hit and we were again off for six weeks.
“Olu’s chronic injuries have taken a toll on him. He has been great playing through some pain and still giving his all for Alaska—a true professional. But we know how hard it is to win in the playoffs and we felt, although new, that bringing in Mark can give us that extra spark we need.”
And as huge as Alaska’s plans are, Cariaso said the Aces are keeping things simple.
“We’re really just focusing on what we need to do today. I know we’ve been using [that philosophy] a lot, but it really is our reality,” he said. INQ