PALS PUMPED UP FOR DAY OF CORONATION

Manila, July 13, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Talk n Text has gone this far twice before but failed to go all the way to dreamland.

The question to ponder on is whether the Phone Pals have come of age and are now ready to bury the memories of their bitter past.

"History is unkind to us but we’ll do everything we can to finish the job this time," said Talk n Text coach Joel Banal on the eve of what could become their coronation day.

Riding the momentum of a three-game winning run, the Phone Pals seek to finish off the beleaguered Coca-Cola Tigers in Game Six of their Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup best-of-seven title showdown at the Astrodome today.

The Phone Pals set out for the 6 p.m. match determined to slay the ghost of their debacles in the 1998 Governors Cup and 2002 Commissioners Cup finals. The team also gained a three-game-to-two lead on both occasions but still went short in its bid to deliver the elusive first championship for the PLDT franchise.

Banal himself has something nagging his mind.

"Hindi ako nananalo ng game na ganito," said the Talk n Text mentor, referring to losses that temporarily derailed his journeys to championships in the NCAA (with Mapua), PBL (Ateneo-Pioneer) and the UAAP (Ateneo).

"Against San Beda in 1991, we won the first game then bungled our first crack at the championship. Same thing happened in the UAAP last year. In the PBL, we beat Blu in the first two games of a best-of-five playoff but the series ended in four games," he remembered.

If Talk n Text wins the championship, Banal gains a sort of a grand slam by stringing up title runs in the PBL, UAAP and the PBA inside one year. He also becomes only the second mentor to win championships in the NCAA, UAAP, PBL and the PBA, duplicating the feat of his former coach Turo Valenzona.

Banal said they will go flat out to accomplish the job in Game Six to make the championship their birthday gift to team owner Manny Pangilinan who turns a year older tomorrow.

Talk n Text main man Asi Taulava, meanwhile, promised to deliver the championship to gain respect in the league.

"An agent of one of the Fil-Ams of Coca-Cola said we were too individualistic to win, and that Coke would win the last two games to get the championship. I guess that pissed me off. I was so mad, I felt I had something to prove," said Taulava.

"Right now, people don’t respect us that much. We’ll get it (the championship) Sunday to prove our detractors wrong," he added.

Banal, however, believes it’s easier said than done, knowing Coca-Cola will also do everything to stay alive.

Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes vowed to do just that.

"Talk n Text will surely come out really hard to finish the series. The important thing for us is to hang on in the face of a bristling game likely to be put up by our rivals," said Reyes.

"We need some breaks in the dying moments. In Games Three and Four, we had our chances but couldn’t finish them off," he added.

Reyes called his Tigers to a light practice yesterday, making them mentally prepared for today’s game.

"Our session yesterday was more of mental. I wanted the team to come to the game on a positive note. I told them not to be afraid to lose. Kasi after winning the first two games, parang naglaro na not to lose," he said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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