GINEBRA IN DEEP HOLE
7:30 p.m. – Barangay Ginebra vs. Alaska
Aces ahead, 2-0
After beating Barangay Ginebra to submission as early as the first period in Game 1, Alaska did so anew a quarter later in Game 2, setting the tone for another 104-90 thrashing of the Gin Kings last night that put the Aces on the verge of a 14th PBA title in the Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Aces broke out of a slim 25-23 lead after the first 12 minutes with a punishing 29-point explosion in the second quarter while a resolute defense kept the Gin Kings to only two field goals for more than eight minutes and were never threatened after posting a 54-37 at the half.
Thus, the Aces fortified their bid for a first title since winning the 2009-2010 Fiesta Conference while finally moving out of the long shadow cast by their legendary mentor Tim Cone who had steered them to 13 league titles.
They now hold a 2-0 lead in the playoffs and are heavily favored to complete a sweep in Game 3 tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We don’t want to look past this game. Our game plan has been working and you maximize that. But there’s still a lot of respect there (for Ginebra),” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo who is, himself, looking for a first PBA title as head coach.
The Gin Kings, who lost Game 1 because of a measly six points in the first quarter that went down as the second worst in PBA history, looked like they were finally able to slay the ghost of that loss when they went on an 11-4 start and kept in-step with the Aces at 23-25, going into the second period.
But it was like the nightmare of that series opener returned when they opened the next quarter by hitting only two field goals out of 13 attempts.
And as the Gin Kings wallowed in their offense, the Aces had Calvin Abueva leading an initial 14-6 blitz that gave them their first sizeable lead at 39-29, with 3;59 left in the second quarter.
With import Vernon Macklin hardly any help with only two free throws to show for, Kerby Raymundo and Mac Baracael managed to bring the Gin Kings to within 33-41 but the Aces were unrelenting as JV Casio presided over a 15-6 finishing run for that 54-37 advantage at the half.
And just when the jampacked Pasay arena anticipated a huge come back from the “never-say-die” Gin Kings after the halftime break, they were hushed to disappointment as the Aces scored almost at-will anew.
In fact, in a single offensive by the Aces, they were able to help themselves to five attempts at the basket, ending with a jumper from Cyrus Baguio that gave them their biggest lead of 24 points at 68-44, with 5:22 left in the third period.
Ginebra coach Al Francis Chua decided to sit out Macklin at the start of the fourth period and this initially paid good dividends after the Gin Kings came to within 14 (64-78).
But veteran Dondon Hontiveros wasn’t about to give the Gin Kings any momentum for a rally as he fired three successive three-pointers that re-established an 87-68 cushion, time down to 7:08.
A last gasp for Ginebra came in the form of three triples from Jayjay Helterbrand and Mac Baracael as the Gin Kings came to within 86-94 but there was hardly any time left to complete any rally with only 63 seconds left in the game.
In a massive show of offensive might, the Aces had four players – Robert Dozier, Baguio, Abueva and Hontiveros – finish with 15 points each with Sonny Thoss leading the way with 16. They even had Casio adding 13 and Gabby Espinas eight.
With Macklin finishing with a mere eight points, Chua had to dig deep into his bench anew but could hardly find the right guy to pick up the team’s dwindling spirits.
Helterbrand and LA Tenorio led them with 17 and 16 points, respectively, while Baracael and Raymundo rounded out their double-digit scorers with 11 and 10.
ALASKA 104 - Thoss 16, Dozier 15, Abueva 15, Baguio 15, Hontiveros 15, Casio 13, Espinas 8, Jazul 4, Belasco 3, Dela Cruz 0.
GINEBRA 90 - Helterbrand 17, Tenorio 16, Baracael 11, Raymundo 10, Macklin 8, Ellis 8, Labgala 5, Urbiztondo 5, Mamaril 4, Hatfield 4, Caguioa 2, Maierhofer 0.
Quarters: 25-23, 54-37, 74-56, 104-90
Thursday, 16 May 2013 00:00 Published in Sports
7:30 p.m. – Barangay Ginebra vs. Alaska
Fiery Alaska kept Barangay Ginebra to the second worst start in a championship game in PBA history and was on top of things throughout in crafting an 87-70 victory in Game 1 last night that gave the Aces a huge headstart in their short best-of-five playoff for the Commissioner’s Cup crown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Business-like and methodical, the Aces sizzled for 28 points through the first 12 minutes of the game while keeping their foes to a measly six points on two hard-earned field goals by import Vernon Macklin and a free throw each from Chris Ellis and Mac Baracael that told it all in the much-awaited repeat of a championship rivalry last seen in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup.
Ironically, that disappointing start matched the measly six points that was also posted by Alaska in the first quarter in past Finals stints. Moreover, the Aces hold the worst mark of scoring only five points in a quarter in the championships which they did not once but twice in previous years.
The Gin Kings, who had won that last titular playoff against the Aces 16 years ago (4-2), started flat and scoreless through the first 6:05 of the first quarter, missing all of their first nine field goals while the Aces bamboozled them with 14 points.
It wasn’t until the 5:55 mark that Macklin broke that stupor with a put-back off a miss by LA Tenorio for a 2-14 count.
And just when the predominantly pro-Ginebra Cubao arena anticipated a torrent to come, the Gin Kings could do no better than have another field goal from Macklin and those free throws from Ellis and Baracael while missing another slew of 15 baskets.
In the meantime, the Aces, almost trouble-free, unloaded another 14-points barrage to close out the first quarter with a 24-6 lead – the most lopsided start in PBA history.
And if there was anything that the Gin Kings could muster, it was but a whimper of an 18-12 rally anchored on the re-entry of long-lost team leader Mark Caguioa early in the second quarter. A jumpshot by Rob Labagala put them closest at 22-40 but that was the last heard of Barangay Ginebra.
Coming off a 45-24 lead at the half, the Aces poured it on even more, uncorking another eight unanswered points – the last two on a pair of charities by Sonny Thoss – that all but broke the backs of the Gin Kings with an imposing 30-point lead (54-44), with 10:03 remaining in the third quarter.
That large advantage all but deflated whatever “never-say-die” swagger the Gin Kings are known for as all they could do was come to within 14 points at 63-77 late in the last period when all the outcome was all but beyond recall and most of the diehard Ginebra fans already making their way to the exits.
ALASKA 87 - Jazul 16, Dozier 14, Thoss 12, Abueva 10, Casio 10, Baguio 10, Espinas 9, Dela Cruz 4, Hontiveros 2, Belasco 0.
GINEBRA 70 - Macklin 16, Tenorio 14, Raymundo 9, Helterbrand 7, Espiritu 6, Labagala 4, Urbiztondo 4, Maierhofer 4, Mamaril 2, Caguioa 2, Ellis 1, Baracael 1, Wilson 0, Hatfield 0.
Quarters: 28-6, 46-24, 67-48, 87-70
COMMISH CUP FINALS START
7:30 p.m. — Barangay Ginebra vs Alaska Milk
From election fever to PBA mania.
Coming off a ho-hum of a finale in the Philippine Cup, the Philippine Basketball Association unravels a short best-of-five championship series today that will ultimately be decided by all the blood, sweat and tears that Alaska Milk and Barangay Ginebra could muster at the start of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces made it to the series as expected and had been a force-to-reckon throughout the tournament with an overall record of 15 wins and four losses while the Gin Kings came through anew with their vaunted never-say-die brand of game in a campaign that seemed lost at the start.
Game time is at 7:30 p.m. and the league, riding high on recent records set in gate receipts and television ratings spurred on by the intense competition, expects a jam-packed Cubao arena anew.
Expectedly, it will be a far, far cry from the Philippine Cup Finals which ended with Talk ‘N Text being hardly challenged in a 0-4 sweep of Rain or Shine.
And it will definitely be a huge quirk of great timing that Game 1 comes two days after the fervor over the May 13 elections has ebbed and the country is now ready and willing to witness a different kind of no-holds barred competition to be decided on the hardcourt and not in the polling precincts.
In their customary pre-Final press conference yesterday, coaches Luigi Trillo (Alaska) and Al Francis Chua (Barangay Ginebra) both predicted a tough grind ahead. As a sidelight, both Trillo, in his first PBA Finals as a coach, and Chua, only in his second, would be seeking a first PBA title.
“(Chua) is one of the best motivators I know,” Trillo noted even as that may also be said of him after he finally came out of the long shadow cast by his former mentor Tim Cone at the Alaska bench, marshalling the Aces to a 3-1 dominance of Cone’s San Mig Coffee Mix in the semifinals.
Chua expects “an all-out war.” “(The Aces) are all experienced players. This will be an exciting series. We’re just excited we’re here in the finals,” he added.
In the two times that the two teams met in the elimination round, Alaska prevailed.
Significantly, the first of those two losses came last Feb. 23 — an 84-69 humiliation of the Gin Kings in Tubod, Lanao del Norte — which highlighted the scourge of Ginebra and the promise of Alaska early in the Commissioner’s Cup.
That was the Aces’ fourth win in as many starts, enough to jump start a stirring elimination round campaign that ended with a league-best 11-3 win-loss record.
On the other hand, that loss was the Gin Kings’ fourth setback in a winless start that cast serious doubts on their chances in the tournament.
But that defeat, suffered even with the entry of import Vernon Macklin who replaced the ineffective Herbert Hill, may have set off that “never-say-die” switch in the minds and hearts of the Gin Kings.
From there, it was an all-new Barangay Ginebra which won seven of their remaining 10 games that had the league’s most popular ballclub barely making it to the quarter-final round with a twice-to-beat disadvantage against No. 2 seed Rain or Shine.
“Anyone can coach Ginebra. But I have to admit, mahirap hawakan ang Ginebra. Dito lang ako sa Ginebra kinikilabutan. Mahirap na masarap,” Chua said of that roller-coaster journey to the Finals.
That included an upset of the Elasto Painters in the quarterfinals that enabled them to challenge Talk ‘N Text in the semis which they beat in a thrilling best-of-five series, 3-2.
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