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SMB, TNT star semis series

12:52 AM February 08, 2017

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San Miguel Beer and TNT KaTropa engage in a colossal Final Four matchup pitting a team chasing a Philippine Cup three-peat versus a squad that is the lone holder of that particular feat with its reign from 2011 to 2013.

With hardly a rest from their quarterfinals chores, the Beermen and the Texters begin a best-of-seven semifinal showdown at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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As they fight for the decisive head start in the series, the Beermen pursue an extra goal – tying a franchise record streak of 11 wins.

An interesting side battle is that of June Mar Fajardo and Jason Castro – chief rivals for the Best Player of the Conference plum.

Fajardo and his teammates have been unbeaten for over two months – in their hottest run in three years – as they set out for a royal showdown with the Texters.

A part of the Beermen’s amazing streak was their 98-94 conquest of the KaTropa on Jan. 28 at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.

That loss to SMB sent TNT to a best-of-three quarterfinals showdown with GlobalPort.

No problem there. The Texters hurdled the Batang Pier via a two-game sweep.

Now comes the hard part with Fajardo and his teammates standing on the Texters’ way to the Philippine Cup finals.

The KaTropa have never been to the all-Filipino finale since the last of their five Philippine Cup crowns in 2013.

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But SMB coach Leo Austria said they can’t also be sure against TNT.

“Kailangan pagtrabahuhan iyan. Hindi pwedeng biruin ang team na ‘yan,” said Austria pitted in a coaching duel with neophyte PBA head coach Nash Racela.

The Beermen are bigger but the Texters also have key players practically on all spots.

Likely to alternate in taking on Fajardo are Moala Tautuaa and Kelly Williams. Then there are the other marquee matchups between Ranidel de Ocampo and Arwind Santos, Castro versus Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter against Larry Fonacier, and Ryan Reyes versus Chris Ross.

And both teams boast of deep benches, thus, promising a real battle.

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