Finals Game 5: SLR 88, PF 76

On: 25 February 2008

In a game where the top scorers from both teams are absent, the Sta. Lucia Realty simply outplayed a Purefoods side to score an 88-76 victory to move on the doorstep of the 2007-08 Smart PBA Philippine Cup championship Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Realtors adjusted better playing short-handed sans Joseph Yeo, toughening up on defense and working steadier offensively as they took the crucial 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Giants played without the suspended James Yap.

They take the first of their two cracks at the coveted all-Filipino crown Wednesday in the same venue.

"Purefoods is a strong team and we have to work hard again. We’ll make our preparations and we’ll see," said Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez.

Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio described Yap as a wounded warrior, expecting him to give the team a tremendous boost in Game Six.

"Playing without James Yap is like running the marathon with one leg. We did everything humanly possible tonight but we came up short," said Gregorio.

"We’ve been in and survived a tighter situation before. We’ve survived from a 1-3 hole before and I believe we can still give effort and energy to rally in this series," Gregorio added.

Yap, averaging 27.2 points per game in the finals, served a one-game suspension and his absence clearly told on each team’s game plan, particularly on the Giants, who failed to come up with an answer when the Realtors went to the zone defense. Yeo, norming 16.8 ppg, served his penance after committing a flagrant foul-penalty 2 earlier in the series.

Interestingly enough, had Yap and Yeo played and came up with their respective points averages, Sta. Lucia would still have won by a point.

Meanwhile, Kelly Williams and Dennis Espino got things done for the Realtors in the second period, Nelbert Omolon in the third, and Paolo Mendoza and Marlou Aquino in the fourth.

Ryan Reyes did a good job playing extended minutes in the absence of Yeo. Although he struggled hard for his 8 points. he was very active in setting up plays by grabbing 7 rebounds, issuing 2 assists and stealing the ball thrice.

The Realtors recalled their old defensive form, holding the Giants to their lowest output in the series. Seventy-six was Purefoods’ second lowest output in the tourney.

"We’re really a defensive team. For as long as we’re able to play our defense, we’ll be doing good in this series," said Fernandez.

After a slow start, Williams came through with a huge double-double game with 20 points and 16 rebounds, his 21st double-double in the conference. No other player has more than 17 in the tournament.

Espino made 15 points with eight in the second period, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks. Omolon chipped in 14 also with eight in the third, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 block shots, including a poster block on Kerby Raymundo with less than 1 minute left the game. Meanwhile, Aquino poured all of his 12 in the payoff quarter plus 3 rebounds, 2 block shots and 4 assists to give Espino some timely rest on the bench.

Mendoza, playing on borrowed time, had timely hits and finished with nine, all in the final half. The former UP Maroon rattled in seven straight points early in the fourth, giving the Realtors the first of their two 18-point spreads at 71-53. He also grabbed 2 rebounds, issued 3 asists and stole the ball twice.

Aquino took over from there as the Realtors kept the Giants at bay the rest of the way.

Purefoods once again showed a different look to start the game, combining Kerby Raymundo, Jondan Salvador, Ardy Larong, Roger Yap and Chico Lanete.

Taking the spot of Yap, Lanete put in four points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal in the first half when the Giants led by as many as 11 before settling for a 39-37 edge at the turn.

The two teams figured in a defensive battle, ending up with their lowest combined first-half output in the series.

Raymundo poured in nine points in the opening quarter but went scoreless in seven minutes in the second period. Rey Evangelista, Romel Adducul and Lanete took over from Raymundo in the second canto.

Williams and Espino came to the fore for Sta. Lucia in the second period, firing eight apiece as the Realtors came within two at halftime.

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