PBA  FIESTA  CROWN:  WILL  IT  END  TONIGHT?

MANILA, JULY 18, 2007
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Talk íNí Text takes the first of two chances to capture the PBA Fiesta Conference crown at the Big Dome tonight.

For sure, the Phone Pals will go all out to beat Alaska in Game 6 and avoid a you-or-me situation in a possible Game 7 at the Cuneta Astrodome on Friday. Momentum is on coach Derick Pumarenís side. History, too, as Talk íNí Text has already won back-to-back contests in the series while Alaska hasnít. For the Aces to bag the title, theyíve got to win two in a row.

Coming off a painful 107-104 loss in Game 5, Alaska coach Tim Cone is looking to bounce back. He had no excuses in blowing a four-point lead with 4:07 to go.

ďWe lacked the effort to win it,Ē said Cone. ďWeíll have to do a much better job in Game 6 if we want a Game 7.Ē

Alaskaís vaunted backcourt tandem of MVP Willie Miller and Mike Cortez was uncharacteristically erratic last Sunday. Miller, averaging 24 points in the Finals, was held to only six, five in the first period, and shot 2-of-8 from the field. Cortez delivered 18 points but had seven turnovers with only two assists.

Coneís consolation was the strong showing of frontliners Sonny Thoss (16 points), Nic Belasco (12), Reynel Hugnatan (12) and John Ferriols (6). If only Miller got his usual numbers, Alaska wouldíve won for sure.

If you examine the scores of each game in the Finals so far, youíll notice certain indicators or trends.

For instance, in Alaskaís two wins, Talk íNí Text was limited to an average of 83.5 points and .406 shooting from the floor. In the Phone Palsí three victories, they averaged 107.3 points and hit .484. Thatís a differential of close to 25 points. The stats indicate that Alaska wins with defense and Talk íNí Text wins with offense. The lower the scores, the better for the Aces. The higher the scores, the better for the Phone Pals.

In four of the five games, the team with more bench points won. As the series extends, the contributions of second unit players becomes increasingly vital.

Another yardstick is turnover points. In every game in the Finals, the team with more turnover points won.

Itís Alaskaís turn to adjust tonight. You can expect Miller to make up for his anemic performance last Sunday. If the Aces hold Talk íNí Text to less than 90 points and lower than .450 shooting, a Game 7 is likely. The key is containing the production of Pumarenís shock troopers like Jay Washington and Don Allado who, incidentally, combined for 28 points in Game 5. J. J. Sullinger and MacMac Cardona were the only Phone Pals in double figures in Game 4, which Alaska won, and Cone will no doubt keep that in mind.

* * *

Here are more observations from the peanut gallery for the Tokushima-bound Philippine national basketball team to munch on:

ē Force opponents to put the ball on the floor, pressure and create turnovers. Itís easier to set up defensively when the other team is dribbling, not whip-passing over your head. Pressure is essential because it leads to swipes, deflections and errors.

ē Look to run at every opportunity and quicken tempo. Donít allow the bigger team to establish its halfcourt defense. Length and size are not the Philippine teamís assets. Quickness and smarts are.

ē Be conscious of team foul situations, not just of your team but of the other, too. There must be a conscious effort to get the other team into penalty early. Once youíre in penalty, adjust your defense to avoid giving up a ton of points at the line.

ē Read officiating tendencies. In international competitions, the standards of officiating vary from game to game depending on the referees. Youíve got to know how referees call the game so you can adjust accordingly. Scouts must not only study the tendencies of other teams but also of referees.

ē Sharpen outside shooting. More and more, itís becoming evident the outside shot, particularly from three-point distance, will be the teamís chief weapon to bring down bigger opponents who make it difficult to score in the interior.

ē Concentrate on foul shots. Too many games have been lost because of poor free throw shooting. Missing charities is inexcusable. Every point counts, especially when quotients are involved to break ties in the standings. A target is to shoot at least 75 percent from the stripe.

ē Play with your heart and head. When Jimmy Alapag was awarded the MVP trophy in the Manila Invitationals last Sunday, he acknowledged the cheers of the crowd by pointing to the Philippine flag on his jersey. Thatís national pride for you. In Tokushima, pride will propel the Filipino cagers to play beyond their limits.

ē Stand your ground on defense. Big and hefty opponents tend to lose control when they power their way to the basket. Donít be afraid to establish defensive position and be ready to take the charge. Winners donít get intimidated. They play with guts.

ē Execute with a snap and a swagger. Open shots are created, not served on a silver platter. Players canít be tentative. Theyíve got to be single-minded and mentally tough.

ē Connect on open shots. Itís a luxury to get open for an uncontested shot. So when itís there, youíve got to score Ė at least 70 percent of the time. Knocking down open jumpers isnít just a goal. Itís a must.

ē Not challenging shots means conversion. If you donít contest a shot, you might as well give up the points. Every shot must be challenged. Thatís a rule. The other team canít get easy baskets. Layups are not allowed. You make the opponent bleed for his points.

It wonít be easy winning in Tokushima but nothing is impossible.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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