Battle of Wits


THE last time Chot Reyes shouted his voice hoarse from the TNT Tropang Giga bench was nine years ago. That long.

On Wednesday, Reyes is in familiar territory chasing a familiar trophy.

Reyes and TNT square off with the Magnolia Hotshots for the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup, the last of eight trophies the 58-year-old Tropang Giga coach hoisted in 2012 for TNT before he was tasked to handle the Gilas Pilipinas program.

He will be facing the Hotshots’ Chito Victolero, who’s eight years his junior but one he can’t take for granted.

“I have a huge respect for coach Chito [Victolero]…and I’m not afraid to admit that,” Reyes told the online Finals press conference on the eve of Game 1 of the best-of-seven series set at 6 p.m. at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Reyes said he borrowed the game plan Magnolia used in beating San Miguel Beer earlier in the tournament.

“We saw how well you played San Miguel Beer,” Reyes told Victolero. “I told my boys and coaches to study that game—that’s a huge measure of our respect for your coaching.”

Magnolia beat San Miguel Beer, 97-79, last September 19 and with TNT forced to a Game 7, Reyes said that Hotshots ploy immensely helped them rout the Beermen, 97-79, last Sunday.

Victolero, winner of one of Magnolia’s 15 PBA titles, showed equal respect for his adversary.

“Thank you for the kind words and also for coming back [to the league],” he said. “It’s good for the league and for the young coaches who respect and follow your footsteps.”

TNT and Magnolia are two teams with fabled past. The Tropang Giga franchise is in its eighth Philippine Cup and 21st overall Finals appearance. The Hotshots, too, have been there and doing this with 17 all-Filipino and an astounding 30th overall Finals appearance—having been in the longer.

Bringing his attention to the Tropang Giga, Reyes said his boys will be in the hunt after failing to nail one since their Commissioner’s Cup conquest in 2015.

“They are very hungry—six years since the last championship of the TNT franchise—they are very hungry as a tiger,” Reyes said. “But it’s different now and then. Before we had Ranidel [De Ocampo] and Jimmy Alapag as our team co-captain. Now, we have Jayson [Castro] and Kelly [Williams].”

The Hotshots, on the other hand, are in their third Philippine Cup Finals in the last four years, losing all of them to the Beermen.

“This is our third time to try and hoping we get it this time,” Victolero said. “We always ended up short.”

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