Semifinals Game 3: SLR 91, Alaska 82

On: 02 February 2008

It was a closely fought game. Sta. Lucia Realtors lean on the their energy, hustle and athletic young guns of Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes while the Alaska Aces try to follow the lead of veterans Willie Miller and Jeffrey Cariaso. In the end, it was the bench contribution that helped the Realtors post a 91-82 victory and grab a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven semi-final series of the 2008 Smart-Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup.

Dennis Espino and Joseph Yeo came off the bench to play their most productive game so far in this series. Espino scored 18 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, with one of those offensive rebounds and a putback made in the late fourth quarter to give the Realtors an 83-80 lead. Yeo, meanwhile, added 17 points, 1 steal and 7 assists to make up for the struggling Reyes (3 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals) and the indecisive plays of Dennis Miranda (6 points and 5 assists).

Nelbert Omolon was his usual productive self, scoring 13 points to go with 12 rebounds. One crucial basket came off a steal from Sonny Thoss to give the Realtors a little breathing space, 85-80, with less than a minute to go. Williams also played inspired basketball in the presence of his Cebuana mother, Andrea, to pumped in 27 points on top of 12 rebounds.

For the second straight game, defense was also utilized to the hilt by the Realtors as they took the major players of the Aces our of their comfort zones. Mike Cortez, struggled against the Omolon and finished with 10 points and committed five turnovers while Cariaso couldn't keep pace with the young Yeo and scored only five points on a 1-for-7 shooting from the floor. Thoss was also blocked several times and manhandled by both Espino and Marlou Aquino to finish with 9 points and 9 rebounds.

As a team, this is the first time in their 5 meetings that the Realtors outrebounded the Aces, 51-47, to offset their pathetic 1-12 shooting (8.3 percent) from beyond the arc.

The game, however, was not without a share of controversy and intrigues. With the Realtors leading under a minute to play, 85-80, referee Boy Cruz made one confusing call. The Alaska bench threw a howl of protest after John Ferriols missed two free throws initially awarded by Cruz to Thoss. It did not helped that Cruz rectified the error only after Thoss had canned his first free throw.

"I'm sure they will say something. But whatever they say, I don't care. What I know is that my boys deserve the win," said Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez.

Aces coach Tim Cone said that they would review the game tape and would file a formal protest if Cruz did make a wrong call. "It may not be a wrong call but it's a silly call," added Cone.

Also, for the second straight game, Cone did not shake the hand of Fernandez after the game, but the Sta. Lucia mentor said he didn't mind as long as they kept winning.

"This is the second game he didn't shake my hand after the game," said Fernandez. "I do still respect coach Tim. But if we lose, I will come over and shake his hand. In Game 2, I went over to shake his hand, but he shook Kelly's [Williams] hand instead. I tried to approach him to shake his hand, but he turned and left."

Cone later said they took offense on Williams slamming the ball in the closing seconds, with Sta. Lucia unassailably ahead.

"We thought it was lack of class. Earlier in the year, they did the same to Welcoat. It was disrespectful. You just don't do that," said Cone.

But Fernandez defended Williams. "PBA is entertainment and we're entertainers, Kelly just wanted to entertain the crowd. He didn't mean to disrespect them."

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