Moment of Truth for Giants, Realtors

On: 02 March 2008

By Frank Calapre
The Manila Times, 02 March 2008

Will Purefoods win its fifth All-Filipino crown or will Sta.Lucia Realty end a seven-year title drought?

The answer will be known Sunday when the Giants and the Realtors meet in a do-or-die match for the Smart-PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

Game time is 6:30 p.m., with Purefoods enjoying the momentum after taking Game 6, 89-81, on Friday.

Both Ryan Gregorio and Boyet Fernandez believe that defense will be the key in winning the championship.

"We will focus on our defense in Game 7. That's how to win against the best defensive team in the league today," declared Gregorio, hoping to become the first Purefoods coach to win two All-Filipino titles. He gave the Giants their last All-Filipino title in 2006.

The team's experience, according to Gregorio, will also be a big factor.

"The championship experiences of my players cannot be taken for granted especially in making decisions on inside the playing field," he explained.

Purefoods, owner of seven titles, is the fifth winningest team in the league behind San Miguel Beer (17), Crispa (13), Alaska (11), and Toyota (9).

Fernandez, who brought the Realtors to the finals for the second time, said his team is hungry for a title.

Sta. Lucia, then bannered by Marlou Aquino, Dennis Espino and Paolo Mendoza, won the Governor's Cup in 2001. It was the Realtors only crown since joining the league in 1993.

"The players wanted to end a seven-year title drought. It's been a long time that's why they are playing hard to win another championship," said the 36-year-old Fernandez, only in his second conference as coach.

Fernandez, who played 26 games for Purefoods under Gregorio in 2003, said they have to limit the Giants beyond the 100-point level, especially James Yap to only a single digit.

"Of course, we have to make adjustments in our defense. We have to limit Purefoods output, particularly James Yap," added Fernandez.

After serving a one-game suspension due to flagrant foul 2, Yap returned in Game 6 and scored 30 points, including 20 in the fourth quarter, to help the Giants extend the series to full distance.

"We did not expect that to happen because James had only 10 points at the end of the third period. We relaxed on our defense, allowing him to explode," said Fernandez.

It was almost even in all departments in Game 6, except in the rebound area where Purefoods surprisingly made 59 to only 48 for the Realtors, even with the presence of 6'9 Aquino, 6'6 Espino and 6'6 Fil-Am Kelly Williams.

Williams, the conference best player, was held to only nine points, which is far from his 18.6 average in the finals series. Sophomore Joseph Yeo only managed eight points, way below his 16.8 average also in the finals.

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