San Mig Coffee vs Rain or Shine tonight
By TITO S. TALAO
Manila, Philippines – The top seed Tropang Texters denied the Kings a Top 4 slot in the playoffs last night, with Paul Harris taking over in the closing minute of a 96-92 victory in the penultimate date of the PBA PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Harris, who finished with 31 points, crossed Kings import Zach Mason out of the way in a driving layup, swished in a top-of-the-keyhole three-pointer and hit two free throws all in the final 1:04 as the Tropang Texters closed out the elims with a 7-2 win-loss record and the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals.
“It felt like I was on a rollercoaster today as both teams kept making runs,” said TNT coach Norman Black. “Paul Harris once again came up big in the end for us. Defensively we did what we had to do.”
And that was to expose Ginebra’s unfamiliarity with the triangle offense and the flaws in its defensive rotation.
The Texters will hold a twice-to-beat advantage against No. 8 Barako Bull (3-6) when the playoffs start tomorrow.
“That would be an interesting contest,” said Black.
But only if the Texters succeed in putting Allen Durham and Barako Bull away, the Energy Cola having pummeled TNT, 88-74, last Tuesday on Durham’s second game as replacement for Eric Wise.
Ginebra fell to 5-4, its hopes for a top 4 spot and a twice-to-beat incentive dashed a second time following a 79-66 loss to the Alaska Aces last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Meanwhile, San Mig Super Coffee, its sights set on a three-conference sweep, and Rain or Shine clash today to wrap up on the last day of the elimination round, with both teams looking to clinch a top four slot in the quarterfinals.
Gametime is at 8 p.m. also at the Big Dome.
If San Mig prevails, the No. 2 Mixers will take on No. 7 Alaska, a 90-87 winner over Barako Bull in the first game yesterday. No. 3 Rain or Shine faces No. 6 Air21, and No. 4 San Miguel Beer battles No. 5 Ginebra.
If Rain or Shine wins, the No. 2 Elasto Painters will still be ranged against No. 7 Air21. The two other playoff matchups will see a shakeup, however, with No. 3 Alaska tangling with No. 6 Ginebra and No. 4 San Mig Coffee colliding with No. 5 San Miguel Beer.
The Aces making it to the top 4 will be a testament to their resilience although the shattered image that they are slowly putting back nearly got smashed again.
On a two-game winning streak after getting blown away by 51 points less than two weeks ago, Alaska saw a 13-point lead in the final 70 seconds dissipate to within three by Barako Bull before time ran out.
From a 70-69 deficit, which had been 13 at one point in the first half, Alaska went on a 19-5 run capped by back-to-back 3-point shots by Jayvee Casio to open an 88-75 advantage.
It should have been over by then. But the Aces left the door ajar and the E-Colas came barging back in.
A Mick Pennisi trey sparked a 7-0 Barako Bull run which Casio broke up with two free throws for 90-82, with 31 seconds left.
Then, after Miller hit a banked shot following an offensive rebound, Tony dela Cruz, one of Alaska’ steadiest free throw shooters, missed two free throws. Miller next galloped upcourt and drained a triple over Cyrus Baguio with 11 seconds remaining, putting fear in the hearts of the Aces, who were still fanning hopes of making it to the top four.
Barako Bull managed to put Henry Walker on the line with 5.6 seconds to go. But Walker, 2 of 3 from the line up to this moment, withered under pressure and also missed both.
Allen Durham collared the rebound. But with no more timeouts left to call, he was forced to dribble and launch a long Hail Mary shot from the backcourt which had virtually no way of finding the basket.
ALASKA 90 – Casio 20, Walker 17, Thoss 13, Abueva 10, Espinas 9, Manuel 7, Jazul 5, Baguio 4, Hontiveros 3, Belasco 2, Dela Cruz 0.
BARAKO 87 – Durham 17, Miller 15, Pennisi 14, Fortuna 13, Jensen 8, Miranda 8, Najorda 4, Marcelo 4, Custodio 4, Thiele 0, Lastimosa 0, Wilson 0, Isip 0.
Quarters: 18-22, 38-49, 64-64, 90-87
TALK N’ TEXT 96 – Harris 31, De Ocampo 18, Castro 18, Fonacier 12, Canaleta 8, Alapag 5, Williams 2, Baclao 2, Reyes Ryan 0, Reyes Rob 0, Carey 0.
GINEBRA 92 – Aguilar 18, Mason 15, Slaughter 15, Baracael 14, Tenorio 14, Ababou 7, Helterbrand 3, Knuttel 2, Reyes 2, Monfort 2, Ellis 0, Caguioa 0.
Quarters: 19-20, 40-46, 55-67, 96-92