San Mig Coffee survived Game 5 against the Elasto-Painters, while the Tropang Texters found a way to neutralize the Aces. Both series will end in 2013.
Feel free to read the nicely-written game recaps by Rey Joble further down in this post. For now, however, let’s look back at the year that was and the biggest news bits from PBA.
Powerade and Rain or Shine -- Rise of theUnderdogs: In the 2010-2011 season, the Coca-Cola/Powerade Tigers and the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters combined for a total of just 25 wins out of 71 games. Not a lot of people were expecting them to burst through the 2011-2012 season as title contenders, but that’s exactly what they were able to do.
Bolstered by the entry of several impressive rookies, Marcio Lassiter and JV Casio of Powerade and Paul Lee of ROS, both teams advanced deep into the 2011-2012 Philippine Cup Playoffs by eliminating higher-seeded opponents. They then faced off in the semifinals, which went all the way to seven games. The Tigers, led by the sniping of veteran Gary David, won the rubber match, 107-98, to barge into the Finals opposite the powerhouse Talk N Text squad. The Tigers eventually lost to the deeper Texters, but their emergence did not go unnoticed. The Tigers were to be a feared team all throughout the rest of the season.
|Gary David caught fire throughout the whole 2011-2012|
season of the PBA.
In contrast, the Painters’ semifinal exit seemed to light a fire in them that burned brightly and culminated in their glory-filled 2012 Governors’ Cup run. Coach Yeng Guiao’s crew, backstopped by Best Import winner Jamelle Cornley, won all but one game in the eliminations before advancing outright to the Championship round with a 10-4 slate after the semis.
Facing the Painters were the B-Meg Llamados, and it was a Championship series to remember. ROS went up 3-1 after beating B-Meg, 94-89, in Game Four, but the Llamados surged in the next two matches to force a Game Seven. Cornely led the Painters in this deciding encounter with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Jeff Chan emerged as the Finals MVP.
The leaders of Powerade and ROS – Gary David, Gabe Norwood, and Jeff Chan – were eventually assimilated into the revamped Smart-Gilas roster that won the 2012 Jones Cup. Strangely enough, the Tigers eventually blew up their roster (see below) by trading away Marcio Lassiter, JV Casio, and Sean Anthony, but the Painters remained solid moving into the new PBA season.
B-Meg and Denzel Bowles: Denzel Bowles wasn’t the most well-known import in the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup, but when the dust settled after Game Seven of the Finals against TNT, Bowles became a household name. Some were even clamoring for him to be naturalized as a potential replacement for the aging Marcus Douthit.
This was all warranted, of course, as Bowles bowled over (puns are fun!) the fans with his grit and undying effort. He was one of the youngest imports in that conference and yet he played with such poise. The former James Madison University Duke Dog hit two pressure-packed free throws at the end of regulation to send Game Seven to overtime, where he poured in 11 points to seal the Llamados’ stirring comeback.
Ever the emotional young buck, Bowles had this to say after clinching the title, “I’ve never been in this situation before, but these shots were the biggest shots of my career. I’m glad that I got an opportunity to win a championship. I know my mom is crying now, because this victory is a breakthrough for my family.”
Retiring #7: A true legend will always command the respect of the people around him, no matter the gap in status or generation. That was manifested in the jersey number retirement ceremony honoring former Senator and Ginebra icon Robet Jaworski last July 8. From that point on, no other player will be allowed to wear #7 – a sign of respect for the achievements put forth by Jaworski in his storied career.
During the ceremony, it was crystal clear how Jawo was still capable of putting everyone under his spell. As my colleague, Josiah Albelda of Rebound Magazine and Rappler.com, observed, “a male fan shouted ‘I love you’ while Jawo was taking the stage, and he fired back with his own ‘I love you, too.’” Needless to say, the fans erupted in cheer and laughter.
Only the Living Legend, Robert Jaworski, can get away with something like that.
Mark Caguioa is MVP: In some ways, we can consider Caguioa the successor to Jawo’s Ginebra kingship. Like Jawo, Caguioa is a supremely gifted baller, and, though he is nowhere near Jawo’s level in terms of charisma, he still has a big enough personality to keep the Ginebra fans loyal.
Nicknamed “The Spark,” Caguioa has had a colorful career studded with awards and citations, including being recognized as the 2001 Rookie-of-the-Year, but the one thing that has always escaped him is being named Most Valuable Player.
Until 2012, when he was named the PBA's 2011-2012 Season MVP.
Though his team never made it past the semifinals of any conference last season, Caguioa put up great numbers, norming 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in 41 games for Ginebra. He joined fellow MVP hopefuls Gary David, James Yap, Arwind Santos, and Ranidel De Ocampo in the PBA’s Mythical First Team.
*Trades and More Trades: Several blockbuster deals made heads turn in the middle of 2012:
- January 27, 2012: B-MEG received Gin Kings forward JC Intal and a 2012 2nd round pick from Barako Bull. Ginebra got Llamados forward Kerby Raymundo and Energy rookie Dylan Ababou. Barako Bull ended up with Gin Kings veteran Ronald Tubid and rookie Reil Cervantes, as well as a second round draft pick in 2014 from Ginebra.
- April 20, 2012: In a surprising move, the Powerade Tigers sent Celino Cruz and Marcio Lassiter to Petron while they received 2011 Rookie of the Year Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Rey Guevarra, and Lordy Tugade. This was the first peculiar step in Powerade blowing up its core.
- August 31, 2012: Alaska, Barako Bull, Barangay Ginebra, new team Global Port, and Petron Blaze were involved in a five-team trade that sent LA Tenorio to Ginebra, JV Casio and Dondon Hontiveros to Alaska, Willie Miller to Global Port, Hans Thiele and Wesley Gonzales to Petron Blaze, and Enrico Villanueva to Barako Bull. With Casio and Lassiter out of Powerade, along with Doug Kramer, Sean Anthony, and coach Bo Perasol, the Tigers, now renamed the Global Port Batang Pier, were to start the new season composed mostly of new personnel.
*information adapted from the PBA’s Wikipedia pages.
Power rookies -- Fajardo, Abueva, and Hodge: A 6’10 behemoth from Cebu, a beastly triple-double machine from the NCAA, and an athletic combo forward from the NLEX Road Warriors – these were the three juiciest picks that made PBA observers really excited during the 2012 PBA Draft.
When August 19’s draft ended, June Mar Fajardo of the Asean Basketball League’s San Miguel Beermen became the top overall pick and went to Petron. Calvin Abueva of the San Sebastian Stags, a do-it-all monster nicknamed “The Beast,” went to the Alaska Aces as the #2 pick. Cliff Hodge, the high-flying former NLEX Road Warrior and Sinag-Pilipinas stalwart, was drafted 4th overall after Petron surprisingly chose Alex Mallari at #3.
Hodge started the season as the most productive rookie, until Abueva finally donned the Alaska jersey and HE took over the #1 rookie spot. Fajardo’s performance has been inconsistent, and he was hobbled by injury, but the consensus is he could be the next great big man in the PBA.
Japeth to the NBA D-League: Japeth Aguilar, a former #1 pick in the PBA, was selected by the Sta. Cruz Warriors in the seventh round of the 2012 NBA D-League Draft. This caused quite a stir among local hoop nuts, since it was the first time a Filipino was ever chosen in the D-League. Most people became hopeful and supportive of Japeth, but there were a few who expressed doubts about his skills and whether he was turning his back on the PBA or National Team duties for the sake of the NBA dream.
In the end, Japeth fell short of cracking the final roster of the Warriors, though they did make him a practice player. Just recently, he was named by Gilas coach Chot Reyes as one of the members of the team that would be sent to Dubai and Hong Kong for the national team’s preparatory tournaments, but Japeth instead chose to take his chances and face the possibility of playing in Europe.
PBA grows and grows: At the formal launch of the PBA’s 38th season, Commissioner Chito Salud said, “We had quite a year behind us. We are looking forward, and we are optimistic to sustain the gains we had in the previous season.”
What gains? Take a look:
- The league grossed Php 114 million in gate receipts alone.
- The attendance figures for the PBA games went up significantly, culminating in the more than 21,000 people who watched Game 7 of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
- The league seems to have more parity, with four teams vying in the three different Conference Finals – Powerade, Rain or Shine, B-Meg, and Talk N Text. Eight of the ten clubs were able to see semifinals action in at least one conference, and all teams except the Shopinas.com Clickers/Air 21 Express were able to advance past a conference’s elimination round at least once.
All these bits of information reveal one thing: the PBA’s glory days are back!
This is the second in a series of posts chronicling the “Top Stories of 2012.” The NBA’s top stories may be found here, while those for FIBA and local amateur ball will follow soon!
SAN MIG COFFEE MIXERS over RAIN OR SHINE ELASTO-PAINTERS, 79-67
San Mig Coffee’s campaign in the Philippine Cup wouldn’t be ending in 2012.
With their backs against the wall, the Mixers grinded out a 79-67 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in their last game of the calendar year Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena to stay alive in their best-of-seven Philippine Cup series.
“The New Year’s celebration is the farthest thing from our minds right now,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone.
The win cut down San Mig Coffee’s series deficit, 3-2, and the Mixers did it despite missing James Yap for most of the game due to foul trouble.
The San Mig Coffee superstar was limited to just two points after playing just 23 minutes. He picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in quick succession with still more than nine minutes left in the third quarter, and did not check in until the 5:32 mark of the fourth quarter, when San Mig was already up, 71-62.
The rest of the Mixers stepped up with their main man out of commission. Joe Devance top-scored with 20 points, while Marc Pingris posted 18 points and 10 rebounds. Peter June Simon and Mark Barroca took care of the perimeter game for San Mig Coffee in Yap’s absence, scoring 16 and 11 points, respectively.
“They really dug deep, they played heavy, heavy minutes,” said Cone.
Pingris, Simon, and Barroca each played at least 41 minutes, with Devance logging 37.
Without its top offensive weapon, San Mig Coffee turned to defense, limiting Rain or Shine to just 32.9 percent shooting from the field. Only one Elasto Painter, Larry Rodriguez, scored in double figures with 14 points.
Rain or Shine’s top guns were silent from the field, with Paul Lee shooting 3-of-12 and Jeff Chan, 1-of-8.
Cone said San Mig Coffee’s only focus would be winning Game Six, which is set on Thursday, January 3, at the same venue.
“They beat us twice in a row. And we believe we can beat them twice in a row,” he said.
SMC 79 – Devance 20, Pingris 18, Simon 16, Barroca 11, Reavis 6, Villanueva 3, Gonzales 3, Yap 2, Intal 0.
ROS 67 – Rodriguez 14, Cruz 9, Lee 8, Ibanes 8, Matias 7, Norwood 5, Belga 4, Quinahan 4, Tang 3, Chan 3, Tiu 2, Arana 0.
QS: 17-15, 31-29, 52-50, 79-67
|Larry Rodriguez, James Yap, and Gabe Norwood will|
all meet again in Game 6.
TALK N TEXT TROPANG TEXTERS over ALASKA ACES, 99-95
Talk ‘N Text used an explosive second quarter before holding steady in crunch time to defeat Alaska, 99-95, in Game Five of their Philippine Cup semifinals series Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tropang Texters moved one game away from making their third straight appearance in the Philippine Cup finals, posting a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The two-time defending champions broke loose in the second quarter, scoring 35 points to turn a tight game into a 55-43 spread at the half. Ranidel De Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, and Jimmy Alapag combined for 25 points over that stretch.
But Alaska stayed within striking distance for most of the second half, cutting the deficit to eight points, 79-71, at the end of the third quarter on a three-pointer by Dondon Hontiveros.
The Aces made their final move late, cutting the lead to just three points, 98-95, after a 7-1 run capped by a putback by Gabby Espinas.
“They have a lot of fight, they don’t give up,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black.
Alaska rebounded a Ranidel De Ocampo miss in the ensuing play, but Calvin Abueva committed a crucial turnover with eight seconds left.
Jayson Castro then hit one of two free throws to push the lead to two possessions, 99-95, and Talk ‘N Text held on for a stop in Alaska’s final play.
Ryan Reyes had 15 points to lead the balanced Talk ‘N Text attack that saw nine players score at least eight points.
Abueva led Alaska with 19 points and 11 rebounds, but the Tropang Texters hounded Alaska’s top gun JVee Casio to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
Talk ‘N Text has a chance to clinch the series in Game Six set Friday, January 4, at Cuneta Astrodome. Black said his team is looking forward to the long holiday break between games.
“We have the older team, so I think it might help us more,” said Black.
TNT 99 – Reyes 15, De Ocampo 13, Fonacier 12, Dillinger 11, Alapag 11, Williams 10, Carey 10, Castro 9, Peek 8, Raymundo 0, Aban 0.
ALA 95 – Abueva 19, Baguio 14, Espinas 13, Baracael 12, Jazul 11, Thoss 10, Casio 8, Hontiveros 6, Belasco 2, Reyes 0, Dela Cruz 0.
QS: 20-20, 55-43, 79-71, 99-95
|Ryan Reyes led the way as the Texters move just|
a win away from a Finals spot.
Source: Unless otherwise specified, game recaps were compressed and compiled from InterAKTV. (Writing credit to Rey Joble.)
Images: All images are from InterAKTV. (Photo credit to Nuki Sabio, Pranz Kaeno Billones, and Paul Ryan Tan)