Finals Game 2: SLR 112, PF 101

On: 18 February 2008

The Sta. Lucia Realtors proved to the Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants that their Game 1 win was no fluke as they fashioned another high-scoring win in Game 2 to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven series in the 2007-08 Smart PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Araneta Coliseum last night.

But even with the 2-0 lead in the series, Boyet Fernandez, who is only in his second conference as Sta. Lucia mentor, said it's still a long way to go for his team.

"The 2-0 lead is nothing if you're playing a best-of-seven series," the 37-year-old Fernandez said. "We're just taking it one game at a time. Our focus now is Game 3, which if we play this kind of defense we have a strong chance to win again."

"(Purefoods) Coach Ryan (Gregorio) is a really very good coach, and he has a very good coaching staff. I expect them to make the adjustment in Game 3, so we'll make several adjustments too," Fernandez added.

After their win, the Realtors have accumulated 18 wins in 26 games – matching the total number of victories they notched through the 2006-2007 season.

The game was close all the way with no team leading by as many as 8 points until the fourth quarter started where the Realtors fashioned a searing 12-2 run to break the 81-all deadlock at the end of the third quarter.

Just like in Game 1, the Giants relied heavily on the output of their 1-2 punch of James Yap and Kerby Raymundo. This time though, Giants coach Ryan Gregorio tried to spring a surprise by starting Rey Evangelista, a veteran of 10 Giants championship series, and hardly-used free-agent reserve Omanzie Rodriguez. However, Rodriguez had to leave the game early in the first quarter after a slight sprain suffered from a rebound.

The strategy initially worked as the Giants raced to an early 7-point lead in the first quarter. However, the Realtors cannot be denied. Inspired by their “BELIEVE” slogan, Paolo Mendoza Joseph Yeo kept the Realtors within striking distance in the first half before Kelly Williams, Dennis Espino waxed hot in the third canto.

Mendoza rifled in 10 points, including 2 long-thumbs, in just 10 minutes. Yeo scored 16 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, issued 2 assists and stole once in 21 minutes of action. Yeo’s points came mainly from his daring drives to the basket, but his lone three in the fourth took most of the fight from the Giants.

Both teams displayed high-quality defensive plays and intense offensive sets, but the reliance of the Giants on Yap and Raymundo eventually took its toll on both players.

Yap led all scorers with 28 points and cornered 10 rebounds but was visibly spent by the time the game got into the third quarter. He was just 1-of-5 from the field and 7-of-12 from the line in the third period. Raymundo, who finished with 22 points, also struggled in that period and made just one attempt.

On the other hand, Williams who can’t seem to find his shot in the first half of play, was an energy-booster at the start of the third and carried his consistent plays to the fourth quarter. He scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for his 17th double-double performance this conference, the most by any player so far.

Espino and Nelbert Omolon once made their presence felt under the basket as both combined for 24 points and 11 rebounds. More importantly, they kept the Giants guessing where the points of the Realtors will be coming from.

Marlou Aquino who scored 13 points for the Realtors in Game 1, was not a major factor this game, but Dennis Daa and Norman Gonzalez more than made up for his absence by scoring most of their points in the pivotal second half of the game. Daa finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds and gave the Realtors an unlikely offensive option from the floor. Gonzalez, meanwhile, scored 4 points, including a 3-pt shot that eased the pressure of the Giants zone defense.

Evangelista and Peter June Simon tried to rally the Giants behind their combined output of 32 points, but the Realtors are just too –driven and focused to win Game 2. At least six Realtors scored at least 10 points or more.

The game was marred by a confrontation between Fernandez and the Giants’ Roger Yap right after the buzzer after the former confronted the player about his actuation towards Williams. For coach Fernandez, R. Yap’s intention was clearly either to get his superstar hurt or thrown out of the game.

“I just approached him to ask why he’s hurting Kelly Williams when the game was all over. Did he want my key player to get thrown out? I didn’t intend to quarrel with him. He was the one who blew his top,” said Fernandez.

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