PALS BRING KINGS TO THEIR KNEES
MANILA, February 7, 2005 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Talk n Text found Barangay Ginebra a tough nut to crack 48 hours after their one-sided match the last time, but the Pals nonetheless came out triumphant last night to even things up after four games of the Gran Matador PBA Philippine Cup championship series at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Pals kept their poise and composure under gnawing pressure at endgame, making it two in a row with a pulsating 90-85 victory in Game Four to force a two-game deadlock in the best-of-seven title playoff.
"We blew them out the last time. This time, we played them in a different complexion of the game, but we met them head-on," said coach Joel Banal, gifted with a gung-ho game by his players on his 47th birthday.
"Sabi nila pa-birthday nila sa akin. Pero ang birthday ko talaga sa Wednesday," added Banal in jest, hoping for another birthday present from the Pals in Game Five.
Willie Miller erupted with 29 points and teamed up with Jimmy Alapag, Mark Telan, Yancy de Ocampo and Vic Pablo as they outhustled and outplayed the Kings at the finish for the crucial win that reduced the series to a best-of-three affair.
"I said the last time nothing is impossible. Now Iím saying with God, everything is possible," said Banal looking forward to seize the lead in the series in Game Five Wednesday in the same venue.
"We expect the same hard game (Wednesday). Nothing is gonna be easy from now till the end," said Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen, on the other hand.
Actually, Ginebra looked headed for a breakaway win when the Kings opened up a 12-point spread at 75-63 at the onset of the fourth quarter.
With Mark Caguioa at the forefront of their bid, the Kings dictated the tempo nearly throughout only to fade out in the face of a vicious attack by the Pals at endgame.
The Pals outscored the Kings, 15-2, in the final 4:50 of play with consecutive baskets by Miller and De Ocampo on assists by Alapag practically settling the outcome of the game at 87-83 with time down to 50 seconds.
Caguioa, who finished with a career-high 43 points, made two charities to make it 85-87 then the Kings sent De Ocampo to the stripe with hopes that the Talk n Text slotman would miss his foul shots.
However, De Ocampo showed grace under pressure, canning the two charities and the Phone Pals regained a comfortable four-point margin, 89-85, muting the boisterous Gins crowd in the dying seconds.
Humiliated by their Talk n Text counterparts the last time, the Ginebra guards got their act to get back at the Phone Pals. Still, Miller and Alapag had the last laugh.
Miller unfurled his own show in the second half, making 25 after struggling for only four in the first 24 minutes of play. Alapag made 14 points, eight assists and three rebounds and had his finest moments in the homestretch.
Talk n Text surged ahead to stay as Alapag broke through the Ginebra defense then kicked the ball out to Miller for a booming triple to make it 85-83 with 2:09 left in the clock.
Then Alapag dished out another fine assist, once again attacking the Ginebra defense then making a drop-pass to De Ocampo to stretch their lead to 87-83.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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