TALK N TEXT FOUGHT ITS WAY TO VERY FIRST PBA-ALL FILIPINO CUP FINALS
Manila, June 30, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Though literally bloodied, hurting and all, Talk N Text fought its way to its very first PBA All-Filipino Cup finals last night.
Asi Taulava delivered a hulking performance despite double-teaming defense he faced all night and Jimmy Alapag came out of his shell in the series as the Phone Pals withstood the Alaska Aces, 92-88, in yet another overtime duel to gain the right to challenge the reigning champions Coca-Cola Tigers for the crown.
Talk N Text and Coca-Cola begin their best-of-seven title showdown Wednesday at the Astrodome.
The Phone Pals rose from the grave in the final minute of regulation play and lived on in overtime as the team gained only its fourth trip to the finals since joining the league in 1990 under the Pepsi Cola banner.
After Alaska missed four game-tying attempts in the closing seconds and Bong Ravena clinched the win on a breakaway layup, the Phone Pals and their supporters whooped it up on the court and in the gallery as if they had won the championship.
"Itís the hand of God," said Talk N Text coach Joel Banal, believing God made them lose Friday and let them win last night to get better preparation for the championship battle against Coca-Cola.
Taulava, though sustaining a cut on his left eye brow, completed another double-double game with 27 points and 11 rebounds and surprisingly shot well from the stripe this time, making nine of 13 attempts.
The Fil-Tongan behemoth went two-of-two with time down to 23.7 seconds in regulation to tie the count at 83-all. The game eventually went into overtime as Mike Cortez muffed a shot in the dying seconds.
Alapag also came up with a surprise as the Fil-Am guard, who struggled in the first four games of the series, delivered when he needed to, finishing with 21 points, five rebounds and the same number of assists.
His brightest moments came at the outset of the fourth quarter as he made eight straight points, triggering a 14-0 run that had Talk N Text surging ahead at 71-67.
Alaska pounded a sudden offensive breakdown by Talk N Text in the second quarter to take a 46-37 lead at the turn. The Aces could have gotten an even bigger margin to carry over into the final half if not for a woeful free-throw shooting.
Down by four, 25-29, at the end of the first quarter, the Aces turned the tide in their favor at 37-29 as they made a 12-to-nothing run in the first eight minutes of the second period.
The Phone Pals seemed to lose their rhythm as Banal gave Taulava then Harvey Carey brief rest at the start of the second canto. The team actually scored only a single field-goal basket in a 10-minute stretch in the period.
The two teams figured in a fierce and furious contest in the first quarter marred by verbal confrontations between Taulava and Don Allado and Ali Peek and Mark Telan.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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