NLEX, TNT seek semis berths in crucial tiffs

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    TOP seed NLEX and third-ranked TNT try to make quick work of rivals which have other plans today in the PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals duels at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    The Road Warriors and KaTropa have a twice-to-beat advantage but whether they could take full use of the edge and avoid a deciding game on Wednesday is another matter.

    Magnolia is determined to retain the crown it fought so hard for last year and would take a step towards that direction should it negate its No. 6 seeding and repeat over TNT.

    The Hotshots won their lone elimination round encounter 100-93 last Nov. 16 in a game where the defending champions led by as many as 23 points before ultimately dealing the KaTropa their third straight loss.

    But TNT has since recovered from that setback and arrested its skid by holding off San Miguel Beer 114-109 at eliminations’ end last Wednesday.

    That win coincided with the return from a two-game lay-off by Jayson Castro due to a leg injury and the veteran playmaker is sure to be a major factor for the KaTropa along with KJ McDaniels, Roger Pogoy and Troy Rosario.

    For Magnolia to live and at least fight another day, coach Chito Victolero said his charges must execute on both ends of the court while taking the cue mostly from Romero Travis, Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee on offense.

    NLEX coach Yeng Guiao also wants his side to make short work of NorthPort and issued a stern warning on the eve of the match to drive home the point.

    “There’s no such thing as a twice-to-beat advantage. We have to finish the job tomorrow.

    Or else they will finish it for us,” Guiao said. Guiao has a very good reason for such a statement.

    While NorthPort racked up two straight wins, touched off by a 102-94 win over the Road Warriors last Nov. 13 to finish the eliminations, NLEX went the other route and also lost to Alaska 90-106.

    Guiao also offered his own take on the importance of the match for his team, which joined the league by acquiring the old Air21 franchise in 2014 and is looking to realize its second semifinals appearance since making last year’s Philippine Cup Final Four

    “Monday could be the biggest game for this franchise,” said Guiao. “Even if we’ve made the semis once before, this one looks more interesting for us looking at our potential.”

    With a packed lineup led by the do-it-all duo of Manny Harris and Kiefer Ravena, NLEX looks well-equipped and all set to challenge the traditional league powerhouses for the crown.