PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals battle royale at Big Dome

PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals battle royale at Big Dome

Games Wednesday
Smart Araneta Coliseum
4 p.m. — Phoenix vs Magnolia
8 p.m. — Ginebra vs San Miguel

THE BATTLE royale for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 48 Commissioner’s Cup is fittingly down to the four squads that have essentially been the most dominant of the tournament.

Top seed Magnolia, owner of a sizzling 7-0 start and leader throughout, and No. 4 Phoenix, a youth-laden crew on a “fairytale” run highlighted by a six-game run early in the campaign, lock horns in one end of the explosive best-of-five semifinal stage.

On the other, it’s No. 2 San Miguel Beer (SMB), last season’s Philippine Cup kingpin, and No. 3 Barangay Ginebra, the defending champs, in a fierce duel between titanic brothers that haven’t tasted defeat in their last six and five assignments, respectively.

The last four standing fire the first salvo Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Magnolia and Phoenix take the battlefield at 4 p.m., both intent on pushing their bids to crash the party of recent winners like SMB and Ginebra.

The Hotshots, whose last championship was back in the 2018 Governors’ Cup, have reached the semis in four of the last five conferences but got stuck in this stage three times and settled for runner-up the one time it made the finals.

The Fuel Masters are gunning for a franchise breakthrough in only their third Final Four appearance.

“We’re always here, every conference. We talked about it. We go to the semis, we go to the finals (only to fall short) but hopefully this time, we go all the way,” said Magnolia’s Chito Victolero after his wards dispatched No. 8 TNT, 109-94. “But again it’s very hard.”

As Phoenix mentor Jamike Jarin called it, “the fairytale continues” for the crew led by Johnathan Williams III, Javee Mocon, RJ Jazul, Tyler Tio and Ken Tuffin. But Mr. Jarin admitted the road got a lot tougher with the stacked Magnolia side of Tyler Bey, Paul Lee, Jio Jalalon, Calvin Abueva and Mark Barroca as opposition.

“They are the favorites even before the start of the conference and we’ll get our hands full. But the pressure is on them,” said Mr. Jarin of Magnolia.

Ginebra’s Tony Bishop, Scottie Thompson, Christian Standhardinger, Jamie Malonzo and Maverick Ahanmisi and SMB’s Bennie Boatwright, June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perz, Chris Ross and Don Trollano open fire at 8 p.m.

“In my mind, among the four, they’re the team to beat,” Ginebra tactician Tim Cone said of the Beermen.

“We know it’s going to be a hell of a series and pretty much a championship-level series,” seconded Mr. Malonzo. “These are the games we want to play in.” — Olmin Leyba