Magnolia, TNT try to finish off semis foes


MAGNOLIA and TNT Tropang Giga try again to finish off their semifinals opponents on Friday in the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

But for veteran playmaker Mark Andy Barroca, Magnolia is facing a very dangerous Meralco side in their 6 p.m. encounter that even though they are ahead in the race-to-four series at 3-2, they cannot put their guards down.

“It’s very hard for us to allow Meralco to level the series by winning two straight games that will not only force a Game Seven, but give the Bolts the momentum,” said Barroca, who had 25 points, six rebounds and four assists in their Game Five defeat, 98-102, last Wednesday.

“We controlled the game all throughout, but Meralco got the breaks at crunch time, so we have to come out strong to close the series,” Barroca said.

Magnolia is eyeing a 17th Philippine Cup and 30th overall Finals appearance.

Barroca pinned his resurgence in the Philippine Cup—averages of 11.36 points, 3.45 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 11 games played—on the birth of his third child Noah on Monday at Medical City in Pasig City.

“They are my inspiration, my family,” said Barroca, referring to wife Russel Alinea, nine-year-old daughter Natalie, two-year-old Nathan and their newly-born baby.  “I am at the bubble for more than two months now. It’s a great sacrifice not to see my family.”

Meralco, on the other hand, is determined to send the series to a Game Seven after the return of big man Raymond Almazan from a sprained left ankle and Jammer Jamito and point guard Trevis Jackson (health and safety protocols).

“Same situation for us, we are fighting to stay alive versus Magnolia,” Meralco Coach Norman Black said, adding that his son Aaron Black has recovered from a dislocated right hand. “Allein [Maliksi] fractured a bone under his eye socket but he will wear a protective mask and is probable for the game.”

Maliksi scored 29 points in Game Five on 7-of-8 shooting from the three-point zone.

TNT, after routing San Miguel Beer in Game 5, 110-90, for a 3-2 lead, is aiming for an eighth Philippine Cup and 21st overall Finals appearance.

“We need to be better in Game Six,” said TNT Coach Chot Reyes said.

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