PBA: TNT's Reyes on chance to beat all SMC teams -- 'Nagkataon lang'

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2021 12:26 PM

TNT coach Chot Reyes shakes hands with San Miguel coach Leo Austria after their semifinals series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA Media Bureau.
TNT coach Chot Reyes shakes hands with San Miguel coach Leo Austria after their semifinals series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- In their quest for their first PBA championship since 2015, the TNT Tropang GIGA also have a chance to complete a hat-trick of sorts.

TNT already dethroned defending champion Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals, outing the eighth seeded Gin Kings in one game. In the semifinals, they outlasted San Miguel Beer in seven games.

Now, in the finals of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, they will take on the third team under the San Miguel Corp. umbrella in the PBA -- the surging Magnolia Hotshots led by veterans Calvin Abueva, Mark Barroca, and Ian Sangalang.

TNT coach Chot Reyes could only laugh when the possibility of an SMC sweep was brought up on Sunday, after their 97-79 rout of San Miguel that propelled them to the best-of-seven championship series.

"Well, ganoon naman talaga eh. Any road to the title, you have to go through those three tough teams," he pointed out.

"(But) I think, nagkataon lang," he was quick to add.

For Reyes, it was the "luck of the draw" that led them to face Ginebra in the quarterfinals and San Miguel in the semifinals. The Gin Kings, one of the favorites to win the All-Filipino title, labored through the elimination round and needed to win a playoff just to advance as the eighth seed.

San Miguel, meanwhile, became the No. 4 seed after a loss to Magnolia late in the eliminations.

"Nobody would have ever expected Ginebra to be No. 8 in the eliminations, right?" said Reyes. "So nagkataon lang na ganoon."

"But the fact that it is happening, that was really the luck of the draw or the situation. I don't think you can recall another time in the past, where San Miguel was No. 4 and Ginebra was No. 8 in the eliminations, can you?" he added.

Nonetheless, Reyes knew right from the start that they would need to go through the SMC teams if they hope to rule the All-Filipino conference. The San Miguel squads have won the Philippine Cup in the last seven seasons, including a run of five straight for the Beermen from 2014 to 2019.

TNT was actually the last non-SMC team to have won the All-Filipino Conference, back in the 2012-13 season when they swept Rain or Shine in the finals.

"We knew we had to get by the three, if we are to get to the championship," said Reyes. 

It was a process that Reyes admitted was "very difficult." Their series against San Miguel, in particular, was a grueling one that featured swings of momentum in every game as they alternated wins with the Beermen before emerging triumphant in Game 7.

Reyes is now banking on the experience they gained from the series against Ginebra and San Miguel to help them in the finals against a Magnolia team that is also searching for a Philippine Cup breakthrough.

The Hotshots are making their third appearance in the All-Filipino finals in the last four seasons. In their two previous finals stints, Magnolia lost to San Miguel.

"Hopefully, that experience makes us better and makes us better prepared for this last series," said Reyes.