PBA: PHONE PALS, TIGERS TRY TO SEAL TITLE SHOWDOWN

Manila, June 27, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Talk N Text and Coca-Cola could arrange this title playoff tonight as they go for the kill versus Alaska Milk and Sta. Lucia Realty, respectively, in the Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup best-of-five semifinal duels at the Philsports Arena.

With the elimination round top two teams out in the cold, it is only right that the next two teams try to put up a fitting climax to the long-drawn tourney.

Coaches Joel Banal of Talk N Text and Chot Reyes of Coca-Cola expect tough challenges but vow to give their best shots to finish off their embattled rivals.

If ever, the Phone Pals would get another shot at a first-ever regular PBA championship while the Tigers move closer to achieving a feat no team has done in the league the last 18 years — back-to-back All-Filipino championships.

"This win would not mean anything if we don’t win the series," said Banal after the Phone Pals ripped the Aces, 87-74, Wednesday to move in the threshold of their first All-Filipino finals.

"The team has never gone this far in this tournament and we have to take this opportunity," said Talk N Text main man Asi Taulava who is still in search of a first title in the league.

Banal and Taulava, however, are not counting the Aces out. The two said Alaska has so much experience and knows how to wage a big comeback.

"They’re far from beaten. They have what it takes to come back in this series and we have to be ready for that," said Banal.

Taulava, meanwhile, maintained they have to play it smart throughout if they were to drop the axe on the Aces. He said: "We have to play like we’re down 1-2."

The Phone Pals are also wary of the Aces, who whipped up great comebacks in all the three semifinal rounds last season.

They reached the Governors Cup finals against the Purefoods Hotdogs though falling behind 1-2 in their best-of-five semis showdown with the San Miguel Beermen. In the Commissioner’s Cup, the Aces lost the first two games to the Phone Pals but won the next two to force a deciding Game Five which they eventually lost. In the All-Filipino Cup, the Aces returned to the finals after surviving a 0-1 deficit versus the Red Bull Thunder in a short best-of-three showdown.

The Tigers’ main concern, on the other hand, is how to put the spunk back in the team after a one-day rest. "We’re a team built on energy. And it’s going to take a full-rested and energized team to finish the series (today)," said Reyes.

"Historically, we don’t do well when we have to play after just a day’s rest. That’s why we’re very conscious of the rest we get in between games. We plan things right from the last minute of our practice to the tip-off of our game. We really need to find enough energy to make sure we don’t come out flat in Game Four," he added.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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