2013 PBA Philippine Cup Roundup: December 21-22, 2013

Action from this past weekend in the 2013-2014 PBA Philippine Cup was intense, with ROS handing Petron its first setback and Barako Bull halting its own losing skid. Also, Ginebra continued to gain momentum by beating Meralco, and the Texters scraped by the lowly Express.

Last Saturday, Ginebra beat Alaska, 96-89.

LA "The Lieutenant" Tenorio seems to have relinquished some of the limelight early this season to his more ballyhooed frontline teammates, but in this particular encounter he reminded everyone why he was one of the frontrunners in last season's MVP race. Tenorio was displayed all-around brilliance here, shooting 7/11 from the field, including 3 triples, on his way to 24 points, while also grabbing 8 rebounds and handing out 4 assists. In a young season where much praise has been heaped on Ginebra's towering duo of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, it's Tenorio who will continue to be the most critical piece in the Kings' drive for a conference title.

Alaska is a team that prides itself on being able to unleash a balanced offense, but here the Aces' outside shooting faltered. Outside of JV Casio, whose hot hand connected from rainbow country thrice, nobody made a trey. Not DonDon Hontiveros. Nor Cyrus Baguio. Not RJ Jazul. As a team, again outside of Casio, Alaska missed all of 12 three-pointers. Sure, guys like Sonny Thoss and Gabby Espinas held their own in the paint, but without their snipers connecting, the Aces won't have much chance against the PBA's elite.

After the game, Alaska coach Luigi Trillo commented on the free throw shooting disparity. Alaska was awarded 22 freebies, while Ginebra had 44 FT attempts. This despite Alaska taking a whole lot more attempts from inside the arc -- 64 2-pt FG attempts for the Aces and only 39 for Ginebra. In fairness to coach Luigi, the numbers do provoke some critical thought -- to say the least. In addition, this is not the first time this season a coach has commented on the "interesting" officiating (hello, coach Bong Ramos and coach Yeng Guiao!).

Luigi Trillo wasn't happy with the calls last weekend.

In the second game, Rain or Shine upset Petron Blaze in overtime, 99-95. Finally, a team was able to solve the Petron Blaze puzzle and deal the Boosters their first loss of the season. Rain or Shine's undersized frontline relished its match-up with last season's MVP and this season's best big man. Jervy Cruz, JR Quiñahan, and Beau Belga all rose to the occasion, containing June Mar Fajardo down the stretch (he fouled out early in OT) and making the big plays to halt Petron's unbeaten run.

Petron built a 14-point bubble early in the game, but they couldn't sustain the momentum. They still led by double-digits at the break, but they allowed the Painters to rally in the second half and pull the rug from under them. Petron turned the ball over 18 times here, which resulted in 17 points-off-turnovers for the Painters. Perhaps more surprisng, however, was the fact Petron, despite having both Arwind Santos and June Mar Fajardo up front, was outrebounded, 66-61, and, consequently, gave up more 2nd-chance points, 22-12. It will be very interesting to see how the Boosters rebound from their first defeat, especially since their next two foes aren't exactly easy pickings -- Ginebra and Talk N Text.

One of the main things that made Rain or Shine so dangerous the past two seasons has been its undersized, yet undaunted, frontline. I'm talking about Cruz, Quiñahan, and Belga, of course. The average height of those three? How about 6'5? And, yes, I'm being generous because it's Christmas. Despite the deficiency in verticality, however, this troika of burly bruisers was able to outwork its more heralded foes in this match. Cruz reeled in a sublime double-double line -- 23 points and 12 rebounds on 9/14 FG shooting, while Quiñahan and Belga combined for 22 points, 17 boards, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 3 triples. Now any PBA coach would want that kind of production from any of their frontliners, no matter the size!

This past Sunday, Barako Bull defeated Meralco, 99-86. The Energy Cola hit 14 triples here. FOURTEEN TRIPLES. Denok Miranda, Willie Miller, Mick Pennisi, Mark Macapagal, and JC Intal each hit at least two threes. Yes, Ronjay Buenafe didn't even hit a single trey and Barako Bull still nailed 41% of its three-ball attempts. Aaand, more importantly, they beat a skidding Meralco quintet.

Getting beaten by Barako Bull by double-figures. Rinse and repeat. The Bolts wasted an awesome 19-point, 16-rebound night from Rabeh Al-Hussaini. They wasted John Wilson's grabbing 10 rebounds, which might never happen again in the history of the world, even if he is one of the top five rebounding small guys in the league. Now Meralco is tied for the second-worst win-loss record. Poop.

I smell Cliff Hodge getting shipped out before this new season ends. Something is up. Something smells fishy. His scoring is down more than four points from last season. He's playing 9 fewer minutes. He's shooting 33% from the line. Yes, he sprained his ankle in November, but, come on. This is a guy who is one of the top five athletic guys in the league. Let's go, Cliff Hodge. Let's do this. Rise.

In the main game, Talk N Text won over Air 21, 87-82, behind Jayson Castro’s playing the best basketball in his life. Numbers don't lie. He's currently averaging career-highs in scoring, rebounding, and assists. He's shooting 43% from three-point land (another career-high) and 85% from the line (second-best in his career). Being named the best point guard in Asia seems to really have pushed Castro to get over transcend from superstar to potential legend. In this game, The Blur dropped 21 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Huwaw.

The Air 21 Express's point guard situation is sooo bad that BonBon Custodio, who shouldn't have any business running a team, is their current PG starter. This is sooo friggin' crazy that coach Franz Pumaren is rumored to be wooing former collegiate playmaker TY Tang of ROS into the Air 21 fold. Tang is no wimp, but he's practically playing third-string for the Painters at around 10 minutes per outing. And that is your best-case scenario starting PG? Like I said, the Air 21 Express is sooo baaad.

Dynamite Danny Seigle will not be dynamite explosive as a Tropang Texter, not with Jayson Castro, Larry Fonacier, and Ranidel De Ocampo playing as well as they are. And not with Kelly Williams netting 7-and-7 per game. Having said that, Siegle, for a 37-year old guy whose best years are behind him, is still ballin'. He's putting up 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 block per outing. He's no dynamite, but he's still pretty potent.

Game Recaps:
GINEBRA over ALASKA, 96-89
LA Tenorio scored 24 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and handed out six assists to lead Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to a 96-89 victory over the Alaska Aces on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

It was the Gin Kings’ seventh win against a lone loss in the PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup.

Originally billed as a matchup featuring some of the PBA’s top big men, it quickly became a duel between star point guards Tenorio and Casio, who finished with 27 points and three steals.

Tenorio keyed a strong start for the Gin Kings, scoring 10 points in the first quarter when Ginebra led by as much as 16.

But the Aces struck back in the second quarter, outscoring Ginebra 31-13 to open up a 50-42 spread.

“Nung nag-transition na yung Alaska, para kaming nag-panic,” said Ginebra coach Ato Agustin. “I reminded them, bakit tayo nakalamang, dahil sa defense.”

Japeth Aguilar caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 14 of Ginebra’s 26 points in the period to give Ginebra back the advantage, 68-65, heading into the final period.

The Gin Kings opened the fourth quarter on a 14-6 run to open up a double-digit lead anew, 82-71, with less than seven minutes remaining. Casio tried to rally back his team, but Alaska could not come closer than four points as Tenorio ably quarterbacked the squad.

Aguilar finished with 21 points while frontcourt partner Greg Slaughter added 18. Sonny Thoss carried the fight for Alaska down low with 22 points, while Gabby Espinas added 12 points for the Aces, whose win-loss record dropped to 3-6.

GIN 96 – Tenorio 24, Aguilar 21, Slaughter 18, Ellis 8, Urbiztondo 6, Ababou 4, Reyes 4, Helterbrand 4, Baracael 3, Caguioa 3, Monfort 1, Mamaril 0.
ALA 89 – Casio 27, Thoss 22, Espinas 12, Baguio 7, Abueva 6, Hontiveros 4, Ramos 4, Eman 4, Exciminiano 2, Dela Cruz 1, Belasco 0, Jazul 0, Avenido 0.
QS: 29-19, 42-50, 68-65, 96-89.

JV Casio put up great stats in the Aces' loss to Ginebra.

The undersized Rain or Shine Elasto Painters rallied for a gritty 99-95 overtime victory over the Petron Blaze Boosters on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“We just had to grind it out. We played a bad first half, but we made up for it by playing better in the second half,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.

The Boosters came into the game having won their first seven assignments in the PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup, and looked well one their way to an eighth victory by opening up a commanding 14-point lead in the first quarter.

Petron was still ahead, 51-38, heading into the second half before the Elasto Painters slowly clawed their way back into the game.

The Boosters were still up, 72-66, early in the fourth quarter when Rain or Shine unleashed a 13-2 run to grab a 79-74 lead.

Petron fought back to take an 85-84 edge with under a minute remaining, before JR Quinahan hit a crucial three-point play over June Mar Fajardo to grab the lead again with 30.2 seconds left.

Rain or Shine forced a broken play in Petron’s next possession, but Chris Lutz recovered the ball and was fouled with 14.3 seconds left. He missed his first free throw, but the Elasto Painters were charged with disconcerting, giving Lutz an extra shot.

Lutz made both of his foul shots to tie the game, and Petron foiled Rain or Shine’s final attempt to force overtime.

It continued to be a nip-and-tuck affair in the extra period, with Rain or Shine leading by only a single point, 94-93, heading into the final minute.

Paul Lee nailed a dagger three-pointer with 36.2 seconds remaining to give the Elasto Painters a 97-93 edge. After a quick basket by Alex Cabagnot, Lee added two more free throws with seven seconds left to seal the game for Rain or Shine.

Jervy Cruz led Rain or Shine with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while the Extra Rice, Inc. duo of Quinahan (11 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) and Beau Belga (11 points, seven rebounds) held the fort down low against the taller Petron frontline.

Despite their height disadvantage, the Elasto Painters won the battle of the boards, 66-61.

“Rebounding is a big factor especially with a team with Fajardo in it,” said Guiao, whose Elasto Painters snapped a two-game losing streak to improve their win-loss record to 5-3.

“We worked a little harder today than we did the last two games.”

Lee added 15 points while Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan added 11 apiece for Rain or Shine.

Fajardo led Petron with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, but he was hardly a factor down the stretch, scoring just two points in the fourth quarter before fouling out with 4:01 left in overtime.

Chris Lutz added 22 points while Arwind Santos chipped in 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Boosters, who fell into a tie with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel for first place in the standings with identical 7-1 records.

ROS 99 - Cruz 23, Lee15, Quinahan 11, Belga 11, Norwood 11, Chan 8, Tiu 5, Rodriguez 5, Almazan 4, Teng 4, Ibanes 2, Arana 0, Tang 0, Nuyles 0.
PET 95 - Fajardo 22, Lutz 22, Santos 18, Cabagnot 16, Lassiter 10, Lanete 5, Kramer 2, Taha 0, Hubalde 0, Ross 0.
QS: 16-25, 38-51, 60-66, 87-87, 99-95

Arwind Santos tries to grab the rebound.

In the midst of a six-game losing streak for Barako Bull, coach Bong Ramos found inspiration for his players by telling them about the San Antonio Spurs’ motto of “Pounding the Rock”.

During his visit to the practice facility of the Spurs, one of the most successful NBA teams of the past two decades, Ramos saw a large rock and a stone cutter, which represents the mantra of the team to keep working and chipping away at large obstacles.

On Sunday, Barako Bull got through their own obstacle with a 99-86 blowout over the Meralco Bolts to finally end its skid in the PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup.

“Hopefully, na-break na namin yung rock,” said Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos, whose team took a 50-39 lead at halftime and was never threatened the rest of the way.

“Kung titingnan niyo yung mga games namin, close lahat,” Ramos added. “Yung mga players ko, they were really pushing themselves kahit natatalo kami.”

Seven players scored at least 10 points for Barako Bull, led by Denok Miranda’s 17. Willie Miller and Mick Pennisi chipped in 14 points apiece for Barako Bull, which won for the first time since November 24 against the Alaska Aces.

Barako Bull did it by sizzling from beyond the arc, hitting 14-of-34 for an outstanding 41.2 percent clip.

“Kung titingnan mo kasi, we don’t have a go-to guy in the post,” said Ramos. “I don’t stop them from taking that shot because yung sistema ganun.”

Gary David and Mike Cortez scored 20 points apiece, while Rabeh Al-Hussaini added 19 points and 16 rebounds for Meralco, which lost its third straight game for a 3-6 win-loss record.

BAR 99 – Miranda 17, Miller 14, Pennisi 14, Macapagal 11, Intal 11, Maierhofer 10, Pena 10, Lastimosa 4, Jensen 3, Buenafe 3, Wilson 2, Marcelo 0.
MER 86 – David 20, Cortez 20, Al-Hussaini 19, Wilson 14, Hugnatan 5, Dillinger 4, Omolon 2, Guevarra 1, Hodge 1, Timberlake 0, Sena 0.
QS: 24-19, 50-39, 78-63, 99-86.

Cliff Hodge is inconsolable after the Bolts' loss to Barako Bull.

TALK N TEXT over AIR 21, 87-82
The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters won their third straight game in a span of six days, fashioning out an 87-82 victory over the Air 21 Express on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“It’s a good thing we survived our hell week,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black. “I was really concerned about our ability to win the three games.”

The Tropang Texters followed up victories over Rain or Shine last Tuesday and Barako Bull last Friday by rolling out to a good start over Air 21, leading by as much as 16 points before taking a 48-37 halftime spread.

With Jayson Castro leading the way with 21 points and Ranidel De Ocampo adding 18, the Tropang Texters kept the Air 21 Express the rest of the way.

They did it with hot three-point shooting, nailing 13-of-27 shots for a 48.1 percent clip. Castro shot 2-of-5 while De Ocampo was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc.

Jai Reyes scored a PBA career-high 15 points on 3-of-4 three-point shooting, while Larry Fonacier added 13 points on 3-of-5 shots from long distance.

The winning streak gives Talk ‘N Text a firmer hold on third place while putting them in striking distance for a top two spot, which comes with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round.

“It’s really important for us because the top two teams (Petron and Ginebra) are pulling away,” said Black, who expects star guards Jimmy Alapag and Ryan Reyes to come back from injury in the Tropang Texters’ next assignment against Petron. “The three wins this week gives us a chance to catch up.”

Asi Taulava led the Express with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Joseph Yeo and KG Canaleta chipped in 13 apiece for last-place Air 21, whose record dropped to 1-8.

TNT 87 – Castro 21, De Ocampo 18, Reyes 15, Fonacier 13, Carey 6, Seigle 5, Aban 5, Baclao 4, Williams 0, Anthony 0, Poligrates 0.
AIR 82 – Taulava 23, Yeo 13, Canaleta 13, Camson 8, Cardona 8, Manuel 6, Custodio 4, Jaime 3, Sharma 2, Matias 1, Burstcher 1, Arboleda 0, Ritualo 0.
QS: 20-18, 48-37, 67-57, 87-82

Source: Unless otherwise specified, game recaps were compressed and compiled from InterAKTV. (Writing credit to Rey Joble)

Images: Unless otherwise specified, images are from the PBA and AKTV. (Photo credit to Pranz Kaeno Billones)

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