MANILA, March 9, 2004  (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - There seems to be a jinx on a lot of free throw shooters in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Fiesta Conference.

Maybe, it’s the frenetic pace that’s disrupting a player’s pulse. Maybe, it’s the heat of the action. Maybe, it’s the pressure of trying to hold on to a roster spot, what with so many players out of a job waiting in the wings for the chance to hook up.

Whatever the reason, foul shooting is becoming more and more a critical factor in deciding the outcome of a game.

Take Coca-Cola’s 95-89 win over Sta. Lucia Realty in last Sunday’s twinbill nightcap. The Realtors flubbed 15 foul shots and lost by six. In the opener, Purefoods also missed 15 free throws and lost to Alaska by two. Mike Cortez blew two charities in the closing seconds and allowed Purefoods a chance to steal the decision on the final possession but James Yap bricked his triple try.

In General Santos City last Thursday, Kerby Raymundo missed two free throws late in the fourth period and Shell capitalized to pull out a 94-91 decision over the Tender Juicy Hot Dogs. In all, Purefoods failed to knock down 12 charities, seven by Raymundo.

When Alaska lost to Coca-Cola by three last Wednesday, the Aces missed five free throws.

The year’s top draft pick Rich Alvarez of Shell is struggling at the line, connecting on only 1-of-5. Another highly-touted freshman Paul Artadi of Purefoods is hitting 6-of-11. Sta. Lucia Realty’s Marlou Aquino is sinking 10-of-23 or 43.5 percent. The Skyscraper shot 2-of-8 in the Realtors’ loss to the Tigers last Sunday.

Talk ‘N’ Text’s Asi Taulava is shooting 55.3 percent from the stripe, a slight improvement from his 54.4 clip last year.

Still perfect from the line this year are Alaska’s Ali Peek (10-of-10), Purefoods’ Noy Castillo (8-of-8), Purefoods’ Peter June Simon (6-of-6), San Miguel Beer’s Nic Belasco (5-of-5), Sta. Lucia Realty’s Kiko Adriano (4-of-4), Barangay Ginebra’s Bal David (2-of-2), FedEx’ Gherome Ejercito (2-of-2), Wynne Arboleda (2-of-2) and Marc Pingris (1-of-1).

Near perfect are Phone Pals guard Jimmy Alapag (18-of-19) and Coca-Cola’s Gary David (6-of-7).

Bringing up the rear is Shell’s Adonis Sta. Maria (1-of-5) who shot 1-of-6 (16.7 percent) last season.

Only six players went unscathed from the line last year. They were Vince Hizon (12-of-12), Freddie Abuda (6-of-6), Jec Chia (4-of-4), Benjie Paras (2-of-2), Elmer Lago (2-of-2) and Alvin Castro (1-of-1). Curiously, none of the six is listed in the active roster for the Fiesta Conference.

Two players shot at least 90 percent—-Alvin Patrimonio (20-of-22 for 90.9 percent) and Rob Johnson (13-of-14 for 92.9 percent).

Players who didn’t take a single free throw were Cyrus Baguio, Erwin Velez, Gilbert Lao, Jonathan de Guzman, Noynoy Falcasantos, Long David, Richard del Rosario, Reinier Sison, Gilbert Malabanan and Mark Victoria.

Rysal Castro and San Miguel import Eric Bailey were the only players who went blank from the line. Castro missed two attempts and Bailey, six.

In sum, 48 percent of the league’s locals shot at least 70 percent from the line, meaning the majority hit less.

Shooting less than 50 percent were 13 players, namely, DaVonn Harp (45.9), Topex Robinson (47.4), Rysal Castro (0), Marlon Legaspi (40), Billy Moody (33.3), Jon Ordonio (44.4), Jason Webb (46.7), Leo Bat-og (40), Chris Jackson (41.4), Edwin Bacani (39.1), Sta. Maria (16.7), Romel Adducul (44.8) and Chester Tolomia (47.4).

Nine players posted higher field goal than free throw clips, a rarity in basketball considering foul shots are unguarded. They were Harp

(50.3 FG, 45.9 FT), Adducul (47.9 FG, 44.8 FT), Robinson (57.5 FG, 47.4 FT), Rysal Castro (53.8 FG, 0 FT), Rafi Reavis (58.4 FG, 51.6 FT), Moody (47.4 FG, 33.3 FT), Aquino (52.1 FG, 51.2 FT), Bat-og (55.6 FG, 40 FT) and Sta. Maria (20 FG, 16.7 FT).

The virus didn’t spare imports. Alaska’s Chris Carrawell shot 40.7 percent from the field and a lowly 35.5 percent from the line. Ginebra’s Rosell Ellis hit 52.8 percent from the floor and 44.6 percent from the stripe.

Free throw shooting is an art and science. Players often take their foul shots for granted—-until they realize a trip to the line could mean the difference between winning and losing a game.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved