MANILA, Philippines - Chot Reyes made sure his Tropang Texters did not run out of load when it mattered most this time around.
Behind the gutsy plays of reigning Most Valuable Player Jimmy Alapag, Ranidel de Ocampo, Larry Fonacier and the seldom-used Rich Alvarez, Talk ‘N Text got the better end of the breaks at crunch time to edge Petron Blaze, 111-108, and tie the best-of-seven semifinal series of the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup at three games apiece.
That the Texters pulled off before a jampacked crowd of 16,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum who came to watch a double-header of an explosive semifinal encounter, the other between Powerade and Rain or Shine.
But for Reyes, tying the series is far from their goal.
“I wish we could celebrate, but we just tied the series. There’s still one game to be won,” said Reyes. “We wanted to stay alive and now we are alive. It’s all for the marbles on Wednesday [Game Seven also at the Big Dome].”
Alapag finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists in his best performance in the conference, while de Ocampo had 23 points and Fonacier 15, including a booming three that gave Talk ‘N Text a 106-102 elbow room in the final 1:09 mark.
Although Alvarez did not score, he had two crucial defensive stops at crunch time that allowed the Texters to escape a possible elimination after winning Game One.
Talk ‘N Text is now on the verge of becoming only the third team in PBA history to recover from a 1-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series. Ginebra did it first against Shell in the 1991 Open conference and Purefoods followed suit against Alaska in the 2006 Philippine Cup semifinals.
“We’re frustrated. We lost our focus especially on the defensive end. They scored more than 100 and that was the first time they did that in the series,” said Petron head coach Ato Agustin. “Talk ‘N Text deserved to win.”
“We have to focus on every possession sa Game Seven,” added Agustin. “We will try to win on Wednesday.”
Arwind Santos led Petron with 20 points and while Alex Cabagnot was also very much in the game with 18 markers and 10 assists, he could not make the shots and the stops that he did in Games Two to Four.
“We didnt play defense,” said Cabagnot. “That’s not our game plan, so we just have to regroup on Wednesday.”
The Boosters actually took a 99-97 lead before De Ocampo anchored a 9-3 Talk ‘N Text run Fonacier capped with a triple from the top of the key for a 106-102 Talk ‘N text advantage.
Veteran Danny Ildefonso made it 104-106 but Alapag buried two free throws to make it 108-104. Alvarez then forced a turn over on Chris Lutz and Alapag fished another foul for another two more free throws to virtually seal victory for Talk ‘N Text.
Peek, who had aq dangerous fall after being hit on the face by Cabagnot in the third quarter, had 12 points and nine boards. Kelly Williams, down with a hamstring injury, had a brief stint and had two points.
Lutz and Ildefonso each had 16 points for the Boosters, who lost the battle off the boards, 32-50. Dennis Miranda and Lordy Tugade contributed 14 and 10 points for Petron.