Barangay Ginebra celebrates after their victory over Talk 'N Text on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – As one fan banner read: “Walang Liquor Ban sa Smart Araneta Coliseum.”
Before the nation goes to polls, Ginebra day was celebrated at the Big Dome.
The amazing Barangay Ginebra team survived a fourth do-or-die game in the tourney, keeping the heat of an improbable Commissioner’s Cup playoff run to make a return stint in PBA Finals with a 111-103 conquest of Talk 'N Text before a screaming crowd of over 21,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
The Kings overpowered a badly crippled Talk 'N Text side in the deciding game of their best-of-five semis series, advancing to the best-of-seven finals versus the playoffs top seeds Alaska Milk Aces.
It’s the fourth Ginebra-Alaska finale, the first since the Commissioner’s Cup title playoff won by the Kings (then Gordon’s Gin Boars) in 1997. It was coach Robert Jaworski’s last championship.
Overhauled during the off-season and given a new head coach prior to the second conference, Ginebra is back in the finals after placing second to Talk 'N Text in the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup.
The Kings see action in their 20th titular series, going for a first crown in five years and ninth in all in franchise history.
“I’ll celebrate this win first before I start thinking about the finals. It just feels so sweet,” said Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua.
“(Being) just the seventh seed in the playoffs, going up against Rain or Shine then Talk 'N Text, I didn’t expect we’ll make the championship. The semis alone already felt like championship for us,” Chua also said.
But the Kings rolled past the two champion teams – Governors Cup ruler Rain or Shine and Philippine Cup three-peat titlist Talk 'N Text – keeping alive their Cinderella run under Chua.
Chua denied Talk 'N Text coach Norman Black a 16th PBA finals and clinched his second after steering Tanduay to the all-Filipino finals in 1999.
Chua admitted they got a huge break with Talk 'N Text losing Ranidel de Ocampo to a calf injury.
“Everybody knows Ranidel is one of the best No. 4 guys in the league. They lost their pick and roll, and pick and pop (plays) on the ouster of Ranidel. Even then, they fought to the very end,” said Chua.
In this do-or-die setto, Talk 'N Text was already badly handicapped minus Kelly Williams, Jared Dillinger, Ranidel de Ocampo and Jimmy Alapag playing measly five minutes.
LA Tenorio, Vernon Macklin and Kerby Raymundo dominated their matchups, and Mac Baracael and Jayjay Helterbrand also played key roles leading Ginebra to the series-clinching victory.
Mark Caguioa, who had never plunged into action since March 11 due to an injury, also became a part of their triumphant semis ride as played the last 34.5 seconds of the game. He joined the scoring column with two free throws on Ali Peek’s sixth and last foul.
The Kings did everything right in the first half, overwhelming the Texters, 27-18, in the first quarter, 27-18, and, 34-23, in the second period.
Macklin churned out double-double numbers and Tenorio and Baracael put in at least 13 points each as the Kings went to the halftime break with a 61-41 bulge.
Tapped to defend Mitchell, Baracael also contributed on the offensive end, highlighting a 13-point first-half output by laboring to grab the loose ball then beating the shot clock buzzer with a three-pointer.
Baracael, Macklin and Tenorio combined for a 17-5 salvo, tearing the game apart at 47-30 with 4:25 left in the second quarter.
But behind Mitchell and Jayson Castro, the Texters got back into the game, charging to within six at 66-72 in the third period.