SLR 92, Alaska 80

On: 28 November 2008

PBA's 34th Season

Sta. Lucia Realty coach Boyet Fernandez knew his team’s game against former tormentor Alaska was going to be a defensive struggle. He just did not realize the boost would come from an unexpected group of Realtors.

With its bench doing the most damage, Sta. Lucia beat Alaska, 92-80, on 29 November 2008 to snap out of its funk in the KFC PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center, Anipolo City.

Nelbert Omolon scored a team-high 20 points, but it was the efforts of Norman Gonzales, Joseph Yeo and Dennis Espino which enabled Sta. Lucia to overcome as much as a 51-64 third quarter-deficit and into the stunning win.

"Nung third quarter, ‘yung lima sa loob na naglaro really stepped up on defense," said SLR coach Boyet Fernandez, referring to the likes of Dennis Daa, Yeo, Gonzales, Denok Miranda and Ryan Reyes.

"Medyo dun kami kumuha ng energy sa depensa. Eventually, we created turnovers, nakakuha kami ng fastbreaks at turnover points. Sa depensa namin nag-bog down ang opensa ng Alaska," Fernandez explained.

Reigning MVP Kelly Williams wound up with a career-low two points off free throws and Reyes was still hurting from the bad back that had sidelined him for five games. Things looked grimmer when starting point guard Miranda got saddled by fouls early and picked up his fifth late in the third period.

Then the Realtors’ bench came into the picture as they snapped out of a two-game slide and improved their win-loss record to 7-6.

Gonzales finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds, Yeo added 17 points and Espino 12, the bulk of those coming during a massive 34-5 run spanning the last two quarters that staked the Realtors to an 85-69 cushion, 6:40 left.

In all, the Sta. Lucia bench outscored their Alaska counterparts, 55-11. The Realtors also pulled off 11 steals and scored 33 points off the Aces’ 24 turnovers.

"Credit to the boys," Fernandez noted. "Talagang maganda ang depensa."

The unexpected way the game turned out starting at the last 3:03 of the third period also prompted Fernandez to simplify his game-plan.

"We started to rotate the guys. Tiningnan na lang namin kung sino ‘yung pagod," he related.

“Basta rotate lang kami ng rotate, like yung key guys ko, para ma-preserve ko ‘yung energy nila sa fourth quarter.”

It could get much better for the Realtors could move into solo third-running spot should 6-6 Rain or Shine unexpectedly lose to cellar-dweller and 3-8 Red Bull later in the evening.

Alaska started out hot and seemed on its way to following up its lopsided 113-86 win over Talk ‘N Text last Saturday. But as soon as two-time MVP Willie Miller’s game headed south, so did the Aces.

Miller already had 17 points at the half and, along with Reynel Hugnatan and LA Tenorio, was chiefly responsible for Alaska’s early, sustained surge. But he went without a field goal the rest of the way and so did Hugnatan.

Tenorio , Tony dela Cruz and Sonny Thoss tried to lead the Aces back, but the best they could do was close in at 78-85.

When Gonzales converted his steal off Miller to make it a 90-80 game, the Aces practically spent the remaining 2:44 virtually looking forward to their next game.

The defeat should not hurt so bad for Alaska, which still remained on top with a 9-4 slate. But the way it lost to a team coming off an 82-104 beating from TNT just last Wednesday should gnaw at coach Tim Cone.

One factor could have been the absence of Jeffrey Cariaso, sidelined by a slight right hamstring pull.

But his absence was hardly felt by Alaska in the early goings, especially after Miller started hitting his shots and even went a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, including a buzzer-beater that gave the Aces a 43-35 halftime lead.

Like what it did in razing early deficits of 8-17 and 29-38, Sta. Lucia came charging back to make it a 44-46 game before Alaska countered with an 18-6 surge for its biggest lead of the game at 13.

Then came the game’s biggest run, sparked by Reyes’ runner and fueled by Gonzales’ 12 points, Omolon’s six and Yeo’s five.

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