MANILA, JULY 9, 2008
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - For the record, Barangay Ginebra finished the double-round eliminations of the PBA Fiesta Conference in a triple tie for third place with Coca-Cola and Magnolia. The three teams wound up with identical 10-8 records.

Ginebra, however, took the No. 3 spot because of a superior plus 14 quotient compared to Coca-Cola’s plus 4 and Magnolia’s minus 18. The standings are important because they determine the pairings in the best-of-three quarterfinals, which begin Sunday at the Ynares Center.

At the moment, the league’s hottest team is Ginebra whose stock got a major boost with 7-foot Chris Alexander’s arrival. Before Alexander came in to replace Ernest Brown (who had displaced Rashon Turner), the Kings were 0-5. Alexander the Great led Ginebra to its first win this conference in his debut against Purefoods. Since his entry, Ginebra is 10-3 and has won its last six.

Alexander is averaging 20.5 points and 22.5 rebounds. He leads the league in rebounding, field goal percentage (.561) and blocked shots (3.0). The last PBA player to average a “20-20” was FedEx’ Anthony (Pig) Miller who normed 22.6 points and 21 rebounds in 21 games in the 2005 Fiesta Conference.

Alaska and Talk ‘N’ Text ended in a two-way tie for sixth but the Phone Pals settled for No. 7 due to an inferior quotient (minus 10 to the Aces’ plus 10).

So this is how the ladder looked after the eliminations. No. 1 Air21 (12-6), No. 2 Red Bull (11-7), No. 3 Ginebra (10-8), No. 4 Coca-Cola (10-8), No. 5 Magnolia (10-8), No. 6 Alaska (9-9), No. 7 Talk ‘N’ Text (9-9), No. 8 Purefoods (8-10), No. 9 Sta. Lucia Realty (7-11) and No. 10 Welcoat (4-14).

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Air21 and Red Bull earned outright tickets to the semifinals by virtue of their 1-2 finish, a bonus for dominating the eliminations. Ginebra, Coca-Cola and Magnolia gained outright quarterfinal berths. The fourth and last quarterfinal slot will be filled by one of the four wildcard contenders - Alaska, Talk ‘N’ Test, Purefoods and Sta. Lucia.

Welcoat was eliminated for bringing up the rear.

In the quarters, Ginebra will face off against the wildcard survivor while Coca-Cola takes on Magnolia.

The knockout wildcard games begin today with Alaska battling Sta. Lucia and Talk ‘N’ Text meeting Purefoods. The winners of both games slug it out for the right to advance to the quarterfinals in a do-or-die showdown on Friday. That means the wildcard survivor must win two knockout games and beat Ginebra thrice in the quarters to make it to the best-of-7 semifinals against Red Bull.

Air21 will play the winner of the Coca-Cola versus Magnolia quarterfinal series in the semis. Incidentally, the Express is also on a roll, winning its last four games. Air21 hasn’t lost to both Coca-Cola or Magnolia this conference.

If Ginebra disposes of the wildcard survivor in the quarters, the Kings move up to play Red Bull for a ticket to the Last Dance. Ginebra hasn’t beaten Red Bull in two outings this conference so coach Joseph Uichico has his work cut out for him in the semis-assuming, of course, the Kings win their quarters series.

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A Ginebra-Red Bull clash would be intriguing because of Junthy Valenzuela’s increasingly vital role in the Kings’ scheme of things. Valenzuela was a Red Bull original in 2000 and played two games for the Barakos this conference before his trade to Ginebra.

An exciting quarterfinal duel is between Coca-Cola, bolstered by two imports, and Magnolia. The Tigers’ anchor is big import Jason Dixon. Coach Binky Favis will unveil a small import as Donald Copeland’s replacement in the quarters. He will name the replacement on Friday. Favis’ other reliables are Asi Taulava, Alex Cabagnot, Ronjay Buenafe, Mark Macapagal, Nic Belasco and Cesar Catli.

The Beverage Masters ended the eliminations on a high note, winning three of their last four, including an 81-77 decision over Coca-Cola. Magnolia is 3-1 since NBA veteran Amal McCaskill bumped off Jameel Watkins. The good news from coach Siot Tanquingcen’s camp is his players are all finally healthy. Danny Ildefonso, Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros and Dorian Pena are raring to go. So are Lordy Tugade, Marc Pingris, Mike Cortez, Olsen Racela and Jonas Villanueva.

No doubt, it’ll be a thrilling race to the Finals.

Roach concedes Valero up next By Abac Cordero Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Freddie Roach, who had wanted Manny Pacquiao to take on Ricky Hatton next, said he’s now ready to prepare main man for someone else – Edwin Valero.

Roach, who steered Pacquiao past David Diaz in Las Vegas a few days back, told boxingherald.com it’s very likely for Pacquiao to face Valero on Nov. 8.

“I talked to Bob Arum yesterday, and he said that Ricky Hatton just wont be available this time around. Hatton will be fighting Malignaggi, and Paulie won’t step aside for Manny,” he said.

In a chat with Brad Cooney, the most wanted trainer in the US added that the fight with Hatton, the British superstar in the 140 lb division, might take place next year.

Then he talked about Valero, his strengths and weaknesses.

“Valero is not a real fast guy, so he’ll have trouble with Manny’s speed. He’s a heavy puncher, but he’s not so fast, so I think he will have some trouble with Manny,” he observed.

Roach said nothing is definite yet, no fight contract “sealed, signed and delivered” but it seems that Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum and Valero’s manager Akihiko Honda are in good terms.

The Pacquiao-Valero fight is being lined up for Nov. 8 at the venue that has yet to be decided. There’s an open slot in Houston, Texas, although Arum wants Vegas.

Roach, however, said if he could have his way he’ll have the fight held in December to give Pacquiao more time to prepare.

“It looks like November is the only date available for the PPV. Manny will be here at least seven weeks before the fight. We won’t take this fight lightly of course, so we’ll be ready regardless.”

Valero, who suffered a skull injury in a motorcycle accident in 2001, is only allowed to fight in Texas, but again Arum is working for a clearance in Nevada so the fight can take place there.

Arum is looking at the Thomas and Mack Center or Planet Hollywood as the venue.

Valero, who has knocked our all his 24 opponent, is not new to Pacquiao since the two boxers had sparred one time or another some five years ago.

“Manny handled him pretty good then. We have to worry about Valero’s punching power, he has one punch knockout power, and we respect that.

“We need to work on Manny’s defense a little bit, he got hit a few times by David Diaz. It will be a very similar type fight against Valero, as it was against Diaz style wise,” Roach said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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