Digos City hosts Game One


Manila, Philippines – After a pair of grueling semifinal showdowns in the Philippine Basketball Association, defending champion Talk ’N Text and Powerade collide in what should be an interesting championship series for the prestigious Philippine Cup.

The Tropang Texters and the Tigers open their best-of-seven finals series – on a one-day rest and in an out-of-town encounter – at 6:45 p.m. today at the Sports, Tourism and Business Center of Davao del Sur in Digos City, Davao del Sur.

This is only the second time that the two franchises will face-off in the finals, and first since TNT edged Coca-Cola in the 2003 All-Filipino conference.

At that time, Powerade – then known as Coc – was handled by mentor Chot Reyes, who is now with TNT, a team he has guided to three championships since he started coaching the team back in 2008 and is now on its fourth straight stint in the finals.

“Powerade has a special place in my heart. As you know, I was the one who helped them win their two titles,” said Reyes, referring to the team’s pair of championships – the 2002 All-Filipino Cup and the 2003 Reinforced Conference, which they won on Christmas Day.

TNT and Powerade arranged a seven-game showdown when they scored contrasting wins in their respective Game 7 do-or-die matches in the semifinals last Wednesday at the packed Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Powerade built a 21-point lead (84-63) late in the third period and then survived a late comeback by Rain or Shine, which trimmed the deficit to seven points (103-96) with two minutes left in the game, as Gary David connected a key basket for a 105-96 lead, 1:54 to play.

David scattered 24 points in that game, but he got solid support from rookies JV Casio, who had 25 points with seven rebounds and five assists, and Marcio Lassiter, who added 17 markers with seven boards and nine assists.

The Tigers’ version of ‘Bid Three’ will again be the focal point of coach Bo Perasol’s attack in the championship versus the veteran-laden but injury-plagued unit of the Tropang Texters with Ryan Reyes and Kelly Williams nursing injuries.

Both Williams (hamstring) and Reyes (sprained right wrist) played 19 minutes but contributed key numbers in the sudden-death, with the former collecting six points, nine rebounds and two steals, while the latter had three points, three rebounds and two assists.

Jason Castro led TNT with 21 points, including his team’s last basket that gave them a 92-87 lead with 4:04 left in the fourth quarter.

Talk ’N Text failed to score since then, while Petron rookie Chris Lutz made 4-of-4 from the foul line, which cut the deficit to 91-92 with 48.9 seconds to play. The Boosters had a chance to win but Danny Ildefonso missed a jumper with five seconds left and Alex Cabagnot’s three-point attempt was way off its target.

Reyes expects a tough series versus Powerade, the first team in league history to reach the finals as the No. 8 ranked squad in the playoffs.

In their lone-encounter in the eliminations, Powerade handed TNT a 131-96beating last Nov. 27, 2011. In that game, the Tigers shot 49-of-90 (54.4%) from the field) while the Texters went a dismal 28-of-74 (37.8%). TNT also committed 24 turnovers, which Powerade translated to 33 points.

The win snapped a 13-game losing skid to TNT back to 2008 Fiesta Cup, and the 35-point victory matched the biggest winning margin in franchise history which they recorded twice in 2003 under Reyes.

It was TNT’s worst defeat since a 73-110 defeat to Purefoods in ‘98 Commissioner’s Cup.

“A lot of people were saying that it’s going to be easy for Rain or Shine (in the semis) and even for B-Meg (in the quarterfinals). It was not. And it’s not going to be easy for us in the finals. This Poweade is a tough, tough team. It will take our best to beat a team like Powerade,” said Reyes.

“Game 1 will be a match between two tired teams and the travel won’t help. Honestly I think they’re fresher because we came from a more grueling series,” Reyes added.

It’s going to be an interesting match at the backcourt with the ‘Big Three’ of David, Casio and Lassiter facing Talk ’N Text’s Jimmy Alapag, the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player, Castro, Reyes and Larry Fonacier.

With Reyes, who is also known for his defense, still not a hundred percent healthy, Fonacier and Jared Dillinger are expected to defend the high-scoring David, who averaged nearly 30 points per game in the semifinals.

At the frontcourt, TNT holds a slight edge because of its height advantage with Ali Peek, Ranidel de Ocampo, Japeth Aguilar, Harvey Carey, Rich Alvarez and Williams manning the post while Powerade will have the likes of young players Doug Kramer and Sean Anthony, as well as veterans Rommel Adducul, Will Antonio and Alex Crisano.

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