MANILA, OCTOBER 10, 2003 (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson  - Talk ‘N’ Text rookie point guard Jimmy Alapag could’ve refused to play Coca-Cola reserve Leo Avenido–who stands at least six inches taller–and won by default in their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) one-on-one King of the Court game at the PhilSports Arena last Wednesday.

Avenido was a late replacement for another substitute Will Antonio who had earlier been tapped to replace the Tigers’ original contender Jeffrey Cariaso in the under 6-4 Governors Division of the two-tier tournament. Cariaso and Antonio pulled out because of injuries.

PBA marketing director Robbie Puno said he wasn’t notified of the Avenido switch until the former Far Eastern University standout showed up for the game. Apparently, nobody bothered to inform the PBA that Antonio couldn’t play. Puno said under the circumstances, Alapag could’ve backed out and advanced to the quarterfinals without raising a sweat.

Puno advised Alapag of the situation several minutes before the start of the game in Avenido’s presence. It would’ve been a guaranteed P10,000 payoff for Alapag if he decided to pack up and leave. But the Little Big Man, whom broadcaster Mico Halili likes to call "The Mighty Mouse" in reference to his game-saving heroics and size, opted to play.

Surely, Alapag knew he would be at a disadvantage against a much taller opponent. He’s quicker, no doubt, but in a five-minute battle of attrition, size is more of a factor because players tend to power close to the basket for the high percentage shot.

If Alapag backed out, he would’ve been declared the winner by default. And Avenido would’ve probably gone home empty handed, forfeiting his claim to a P5,000 appearance fee as an ineligible contestant.

Alapag, however, refused to take the easy way out. In his mind, a basketball game should be decided on the court, nowhere else. So he duked it out with Avenido and wound up losing an 18-11 decision.

I asked Alapag if he regretted the decision to play after the game. "No regrets," he replied. "I did it for the fans. They came out to watch us play. I just feel bad for the fans because I didn’t give them a better game."

PBA commissioner Noli Eala commended Alapag for his decision to play and congratulated him for his sportsmanship. Puno did, too. Hats off to Jimmy–he’s a fine example of a role-model player.

It would’ve been a major headache for the PBA to fill the five-minute slot promised to sponsors for the King of the Court game if Alapag decided not to play. Marketing whiz Rico Meneses even thought of running a replay on TV. But Alapag bailed the PBA out of a touchy predicament.

The King of the Court tournament has been a fans delight. It’s a welcome treat in between games during a regular PBA twinbill.

Drawing a bye in the quarterfinals and moving straight into the semis are Willie Miller (16-5 over Noy Castillo) in the Governors Division and Tony de la Cruz (23-4 over Rafi Reavis) in the Commissioner’s Division for 6-4 and over.

The Governors quarterfinal matchups are Avenido versus Kiko Adriano (11-9 over Gherome Ejercito) and Chris Calaguio (15-8 over Mark Caguioa) versus Joey Mente (14-12 over Brandon Cablay). The Commissioner’s quarterfinal pairings are DaVonn Harp (17-10 over Jun Limpot) versus Asi Taulava (11-10 over Don Allado) and Yancy de Ocampo (18-14 over Leo Batog) versus Kerby Raymundo (12-10 over Nic Belasco).

Quarterfinal losers pocket P10,000 each and semifinal losers, P25,000 apiece. The finals runner-up takes home P50,000 and the champions in each division, P150,000 each. The total money pool amounts to P540,000.

The semifinals will feature a round robin among the two quarterfinal survivors and the automatic entry in each division. The top two finishers advance to play for the championships in the Governors and Commissioner’s Divisions.

The one-on-one fever has contaminated school playgrounds and barangay sandlots. It’s the ultimate test of skills. You’re forced to rely only on yourself in offense and defense. You shoot, rebound, play defense and put the ball on the floor. The only thing you can’t do is pass the ball.

The rules make for an exciting and dramatic confrontation. The shootback rule encourages defense. The 18-second shot clock is neither too long nor too short–it’s just right. And the points system is unique–three points for a dunk and four points from about 30 feet out aside from the usual two-point and three-point shots. A player is allowed three fouls before entering penalty situation.

Who will be the likely winners? My bets are Avenido in the Governors Division and de Ocampo in the Commissioner’s Division.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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