Realtors, Giants Play for all the Marbles in Game 7

On: 02 March 2008

By Musong R. Castillo, 02 March 2008

One last game. No more tomorrows.

Sta. Lucia and Purefoods will put an end to a classic series that has had its share of off-court drama when they clash Sunday in Game 7 of the Smart PBA Philippine Cup series at the Araneta Coliseum.

The series has provided soap opera-like sidelights for all the fans to see and read with players, team managers, board members, technical chiefs and even the commissioner all involved in a title playoff to remember.

But from 6:30 Sunday night, the Realtors and the Tender Juicy Giants will slug it out for the most coveted crown of all. "It doesn't matter whether we win it right away or take the long route," Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez, who flubbed the first of two chances he has to wrap it up, said after losing Game 6 and being dragged into this rubber match.

"At least, the pressure is now off."

Officiating will also take centerstage--even with the league's technical chief on leave--as this has been the subject of so much criticism not only from the teams involved.

History--and momentum--is on the side of the Giants, who hope to become the latest team to ever come back from a 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.

But this one will be special than even the 1-3 deficit they wiped out against Alaska in a semifinal pairing two years ago.

"We are highly-motivated because we are coming off a 0-2 start and we were able to prevail in spite of all the distractions," Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio told the Inquirer over the phone.

"Just to be able to play in a Game 7 under all the circumstances is a great blessing."

Purefoods was written off as a goner after dropping the first two games. But the Giants bounced back and tied it up after four games only to go down a game again after the controversial suspension on James Yap.

Yap returned and provided all the difference for the Giants in Game 6, shooting 20 of his 30 points in the fourth period to help his team seal this final showdown.

And it was a performance which Fernandez just dismissed as their error "for failing to recognize the shooter." It was, however, a strange error on the part of the Realtors considering that Yap has always donned the go-to-guy mantle for Purefoods.

The 6-foot-2 MVP in 2006 hit five triples in the fourth, two of them inside the first two minutes, before he burned the Realtors further with baskets coming from almost everywhere.

Sta. Lucia also self-destructed when the going got rough, with Kelly Williams held below twin digits for the first time in 26 games and Nelbert Omolon going scoreless.

The Realtors are seeking only their second title in the league and their first all-Filipino crown, while the Giants are trying to tie Crispa for the most all-Filipino titles with five and give Gregorio his third championship overall.

Purefoods went through a lot of inspirational and motivational activities on the way to tonight, with Gregorio whipping to covers off the "save-the-legs-inspire-the-mind" approach he uses whenever he is in a playoff series.

"Definitely, we are very upbeat and confident," Gregorio said. "We survived Game 6 and hopefully, we get rewarded with a Game 7 victory.

"But of course, it is going to be easier said than done. We will have to work hard to not let this one slip away."

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