PBA semis: Magnolia takes on Phoenix, San Miguel battles Ginebra

PBA semis: Magnolia takes on Phoenix, San Miguel battles Ginebra

/ 04:30 AM January 24, 2024

PBA semis coaches Tim Cone, Jorge Gallent Jamike Jarin Chito Victolero

Coaches in the Final Four, from top left, clockwise, Ginebra’s Tim Cone, Jorge Gallent of San Miguel, Jamike Jarin of Phoenix and Magnolia’s Chito Victolero. —PHOTOS BY AUGUST DELA CRUZ

If how these four clubs finished classification in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup were any indication, both best-of-five semifinal series that start on Wednesday have the promise to be slam-bang matchups.

Top-seeded Magnolia, traditional powerhouse San Miguel Beer, defending champion Barangay Ginebra and party crasher Phoenix Super LPG—which were all bunched in the top four with no more than a game separating the last three from the Hotshots—jockey for seats in the championship series of a tournament many believe is wide open with Justin Brownlee out for the crowd darlings.


The Gin Kings, though, will still try to move closer to a successful title-retention campaign without its dependable resident import when they open their side of the Final Four against the Beermen in the nightcap scheduled for 8 p.m. at fabled Smart Araneta Coliseum.


“They’ve been battling injuries but they’re getting healthy at the right time. In my mind, of all the four teams, they’re the team to beat,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said of San Miguel, which now has cornerstone and reigning seven-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo back in harness—and jelling well with import, stretch big Bennie Boatwright Jr.

The last time the two played a knockout series was during the last Governor’s Cup, where the Kings swept the Beermen in three games. And Cone has hinted at showing their corporate siblings no quarter once again.

The other semis

“We’ve had the World Cup and that feels like forever. I mean, it’s always something special when we go up against San Miguel. We’re like brothers fighting for attention. It’s a real rivalry. It’s not that friendly, either, to be honest with you,” he said of the showdown that pits two of the previous season’s champions.

“I’ve got great relationships with Chris (Ross) and Marcio (Lassiter) because of the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games. But when it comes down, we’re not friendly when the games start,” Cone went on.

Over at the other pairing, Magnolia is hoping to put away a Phoenix Super LPG crew eager to rewrite narratives in the curtain raiser set at 4 p.m.

The Hotshots ran away with a 107-92 win in the only encounter here, but coach Chito Victolero is wary of the character development the Fuel Masters have gone through, especially after going through the gauntlet in a quarterfinal decider against tough-as-nails Meralco.


“They have been playing well,” the Magnolia mentor said. “And they are coming off two tough games. You get to build character and maturity through those kinds of games.”

It’s somehow also personal for Victolero, who has only won one of the five race-to-three semifinal duels in his time with the franchise. That lone victory eventually led to the 2018 Governors’ Cup win, his lone PBA title

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Fans on the internet have also labeled the Hotshots as “Introboys,” poking fun at the club’s strong elimination round performance that somehow ends up sputtering when it matters most.

TAGS: Basketball, PBA, Sports

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