By TITO S. TALAO
Manila, Philippines – When Talk ‘N Text couldn’t move away from KG Canaleta’s line of fire in previous conferences, the Tropang Texters decided to move him instead – over to their side.
Tired of running for cover, TNT traded for the former University of the East gunner after the Philippine Cup, giving up two players to the Air21 Express in exchange for the guy Texters coach Norman Black refers to as “Talk ‘N Text killer.”
Canaleta was in murderous form last night, scoring 25 points, including six three-point shots, as TNT crushed Barako Bull, 99-84, to advance to the semifinals of the PBA-PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Texters will face the winner of the playoff between No. 4 San Mig Super Coffee and No. 5 San Miguel Beer, with the Mixers, who are eyeing a Grand Slam, holding a twice-to-beat advantage.
Paul Harris added 24 points and 13 rebounds while Jayson Castro had 16 with 4 assists and Ranidel de Ocampo 14 points with 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
“Great team effort by my players,” said Black. “From the sideline, our offense looked very balanced with contributions from almost everybody. It’s always good when we have at least four guys in the scoring column.”
Canaleta was 6 of 11 from three-point range, with six points coming in the third when TNT outscored Barako Bull, 32-22, and eight in the fourth when the Texters blew the game apart.
“KG just stepped up. He was just exceptional,” said Black. “That’s why we traded for him. He was the Talk ‘N Text killer when he was with Air21.”
Somebody else was at the receiving end of Canaleta’s firepower this time, with the Energy Cola failing to sustain a strong first half start.
“Our defense in the second half was the main key,” Black said.
Allen Durham had 10 of his 25 points in the third quarter, but nobody else from the E-Colas had more than 3 points. Visibly spent from the single-handed effort, Durham struggled for 4 points in the last 12 minutes when the Texters shifted their running game to high gear.
The game had 7 deadlocks and 13 lead changes but occurred mostly in the first half when Canaleta was just getting warmed up.
The prospect of denying San Mig Coffee a three-conference sweep or ousting San Miguel Beer, the team he led to the Grand Slam back in 1989, doesn’t faze Black.
“I really don’t care who we face in the semis,” he said. “We’ll just play hard and be ready for whoever comes along. It’s just about my team focusing on our goals.”
In the other semis pairing, No. 2 Rain or Shine and No. 3 Alaska Milk gun for slots in the semifinal round then they take lower seeds today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters face No. 7 Air21 at 5:45 p.m., while the Aces meet No. 6 Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at 8 p.m. Do-or-die matches, if necessary, will be announced later.
Meanwhile, SMB center June Mar Fajardo appears headed for a second Best Player of the Conference award by garnering 43.8 average statistical points in the latest rankings.
He leads Air21’s Asi Taulava (37.9), Meralco’s Cliff Hodge (34.6), Barangay Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter (34.0), and TNT’s Ranidel de Ocampo (32.9).
TNT’s Paul Harris (56.5), Rain or Shine’s Arizona Reid (54.6) and San Miguel Beer’s Reggie Williams (49.1), on the other hand, are disputing Best Import honors.
TALK N’ TEXT 99 – Canaleta 25, Harris 24, Castro 16, De Ocampo 14, Williams 7, Fonacier 4, Alapag 3, Reyes Ryan 2, Baclao 2, Carey 2, Aban 0, Reyes Jai 0, Espiritu 0.
BARAKO BULL 84 – Durham 25, Jensen 17, Miranda 12, Pennisi 11, Fortuna 6, Wilson 5, Miller 4, Marcelo 4, Deutchman 0, Intal 0.
Quarters: 16-17, 41-43, 73-65, 99-84.