The players who made an imprint in spurts or on a consistent basis since the PBA Philippine Cup Finals began two weeks ago would want nothing more than to make themselves count and deliver a Game 7 to remember.
“Game 7 is Game 7,” said TNT’s hobbling captain Jayson Castro as his Tropang Giga and their corporate rival San Miguel Beermen fight for all the marbles on Sunday before an expected big crowd inside Smart Araneta Coliseum.
For CJ Perez, he wants to exceed the performance in the previous outing which saw San Miguel taking a convincing 114-96 win two nights ago and arrange an all or nothing affair set at 6 p.m.
Playing a deciding game of a Finals series for the first time in his PBA career, Perez hopes to finally win a championship that remains missing in his young resume.
“I hope I can play on a higher level compared to Game 6,” said the Beermen guard, who reprised his role as an igniter that he previously done against the Meralco Bolts in the semifinals that also lasted seven games.
Castro, who didn’t see action in Game 6 after twisting his ankle in Game 5, and Perez are among those seen to have a big hand in how the do-or-die contest will play out.
The series started with a mixture of drama and controversy, with TNT taking Game 1 on Castro’s jumper that barely beat the clock—or the backboard light as the PBA’s technical committee explained.
San Miguel countered two consecutive victories behind Vic Manuel, Jericho Cruz, Mo Tautuaa and seldom-used Robbie Herndon, who came through in its Game 3 overtime victory— before TNT turned the tables with winning twice behind a collective effort of 40-year-old Kelly Williams, Poy Erram, Mikey Williams and the consistent RR Pogoy.
In Game 6, San Miguel veered away from focusing too much on June Mar Fajardo and got important contributions from Perez, Marcio Lassiter, Tautuaa, Simon Enciso, Jericho Cruz, Chris Ross and even Rodney Brondial.
Coach Leo Austria, who has won all of his three Game 7 appearances, believes he has found a template against TNT.
“After six games, I think we know where will we go,” said Austria as he aims to outwit TNT counterpart Chot Reyes and tie the latter for most All-Filipino titles as coach with six.
“But we cannot rely on just one individual, it should be a team effort. We need everybody to contribute and play well, especially on defense,” he added.
That is also what Austria is expecting from the other side, even if it is dealing with Castro’s ankle, Erram also nursing the same ailment and do-it-all forward Glenn Khobuntin ruled out with an MCL injury.
“Obviously, we’re the underdogs with all our injuries,” Reyes said going into his quest for a 10th PBA crown. “But we will continue to fight.”