SLR 81, RB 85

On: 07 July 2008

PBA Fiesta Cup

RED Bull is not about to waste any second chance.

Showing the grit they are long known for, the Barakos buckled down to work when it mattered most to hurdle the Sta. Lucia Realtors, 85-81, Sunday and snare the second and last automatic semifinal slot in the Smart PBA Fiesta Conference at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Adam Parada scored 19 points to go with a game-high 20 rebounds, complimenting the key plays by Cyrus Baguio, Leo Najorda and Celino Cruz that propelled Red Bull to the win that eluded it just two nights before.

As things stand, the Photokina franchise avoided the dire pitfall of a loss that would have relegated them to the quarterfinals, winding up the eliminations with an 11-7 win-loss slate and pushing it to the Final Four along with early qualifier Air21.

The result also relegated the Barangay Ginebra-Alaska game later Sunday into a battle for the third and last automatic quarterfinals berth.

Red Bull thus made it to the semis for the seventh straight time, leading coach Yeng Guiao to admit in the post-game interview he was still at a loss on how his team managed to stretch the franchise record, considering his charges' oftentimes listless plays and SLR's own determination.

"I don't know how we made it outright,” stated Guiao, whose team could have escaped Sunday night's harrowing experience if not for a 103-105 loss to Talk ‘N Text last Friday.

“We're very lucky we had a second chance, but I still can't explain how we got here.”

Lee Benson had a game-high 27 points and 17 rebounds while Ryan Reyes and Kelly Williams each chipped in 15 points for Sta. Lucia that was hardly affected by the loss, its 11th in 18 games.

The Realtors will face the loser of the Kings-Aces game in the knockout wildcard first round of the playoffs which start Wednesday at the Ynares Center.

The Realtors, who erected an early 10-point lead then saw themselves staring at a 59-69 deficit early in the fourth period, fought back to within 78-79, on back-to-back baskets by Williams, still 3:13 left.

But Baguio fed Celino Cruz for a left corner triple and then followed it up with a steal that led to a Najorda charity, making it a five-point game.

Najorda did his part by rebounding his own free throw miss, leading to a Baguio dish to Parada for a jumper from the right elbow that made it 85-78, 1:35 left.

Red Bull did not score after that but it hardly mattered, as although Dennis Miranda's trey moved SLR within four, the Barakos' defense also blanked the Realtors in the last minute of play.

After being fouled on a drive, Benson was struck by cramps on his right calf, 5:49 left in the game, that necessitated his being briefly sidelined. But not after leading the Realtors back from the 10-point deficit to within 71-73.

Miranda, subbing for Benson, canned both charities to tie the game for only the second time at 73, but Cruz quickly shattered that with a triple.

"Sta. Lucia was playing relaxed, kaya naging problema din namin iyun,” said Guiao. Pinahirapan talaga kami and they were really out to spoil our party.”

For a very long while, it really seemed Sta. Lucia wanted it more. This showed in the way the Realtors raced to an early 8-0 lead and even stretched that to 18-8 midway in the first quarter.

Benson already had nine points after the first period and Reyes three of his total five steals, almost accounting for half of the Barakos' eight turnovers which resulted in as many points in the opening period alone.

Thanks mainly to Mike Hrabak's three-point shooting, however, Red Bull managed to keep it close. The 6-foot-7 forward went 4-of-9 from beyond the arc and already had 12 points at the half, joining hands with Baguio and Parada in briefly giving the Barakos a 29-28 lead and tying the game at 36.

Third-string forward Melvin Mamaclay came in and surprisingly nailed a triple from the left corner, giving SLR a 39-36 edge at the half.

Parada and Baguio also more than negated Benson's nine third quarter points, combining for 15 that saw the Barakos charge ahead 56-53 on baskets by Parada and Najorda, before going to the fourth period with a 62-57 spread.(Source: PBA Site)

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