PBA:  PHONE  PALS  GAIN  FIRST  SEAT  IN  FINAL

MANILA, January 24, 2005 
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran  -  In a virtual reprise of Game Two, Talk n Text courted disaster in regulation period but lived on in overtime, gaining a crack at a title repeat in the PBA All-Filipino Conference with a 102-96 whipping of the hard-luck Shell team last night at the Araneta Coliseum.

If they leaned on a last-second basket by Vic Pablo to force the extension play the last time, the Phone Pals turned on solid defensive effort in the closing seconds this time, then pounced on the Turbochargers’ collapse in the extra period for another stirring victory that sent them to a return stint in the All-Filipino Finals.

Sweeping the Turbochargers in their best-of-five semifinal duel, the Phone Pals advanced to the Gran Matador Philippine Cup versus the winner of the other Final Four match-up pitting sister squads Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel Beer.

"We want this so much. We want to achieve something special. In this case, it’s becoming the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back All-Filipino crowns," said Talk n Text coach Joel Banal.

Curiously, the last team to win two straight All-Filipino crowns in 1984-85 was Great Taste featuring Banal and Talk n Text team manager Frankie Lim among others.

Banal said they worked hard to finish off the Turbochargers last night so that they can have at least four days to rest before challenging the winner of the Ginebra-San Miguel battle in the title playoff.

He thought that would be a little advantage for them.

"If we manage to save our energy well, we’ll have a pretty good chance of retaining our title. But whoever we play in the finals, it will surely be tough. Both Ginebra and San Miguel are tough to play," said Banal.

The Phone Pals overcame a four-point deficit in the final minute of regulation as they held the Turbochargers scoreless to the final buzzer while gaining a basket from Mark Telan and two charities from Felix Belano on the other end of the court in the same stretch.

And the Pals once again thrived in overtime with Jimmy Alapag and Bong Ravena joining hands to stick the dagger through Shell’s heart.

"It’s not about technical. It’s about faith. We kept on believing and believing. It was the heart and the relentlessness of the team," said Banal as they beat Shell four in a row and five in six meetings in the tourney.

The Pals did the trick in Game Three despite Banal keeping Willie Miller on the bench.

"I wanted him to recover from his injury. I thought if we lose this game, so be it. Kasi kung gamitin ko siya ngayon there’s a possibility that he might aggravate his injury (sprained left ankle) then we would lose him the next game or the next two," said Banal.

It was the first time Miller missed a game in his PBA career, snapping his streak of 188 games played — the second longest among active players after Marlou Aquino’s 212.

In Miller’s absence, Alapag, Ravena, Belano and Mark Telan carried much of the scoring load for Talk n Text with each one finishing in double figures. Telan remains the only player to have scored in double figures in all his games in the conference.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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