Breaking Down the SLR-Aces Match-Up

On: 13 January 2009

Kelly Williams Slams

The Sta. Lucia Realtors became the first defending Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Filipino Champion in 4 years to be back in the PBA Semifinals. The Realtors survived the resurgent Rain or Shine Elasto Painters by sweeping their best-of-three quarterfinals match-up for the right to play the much-improved Alaska Aces on 14 January 2009, 5:00 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.

It can be recalled that the two teams engaged in a fierce, hotly-contested semis series a year ago that went the full route and won by the Realtors on its way to bagging the PBA’s most coveted championship.

The encounter is expected to revive the coaching duel between Boyet Fernandez of Sta. Lucia and Alaska’s Tim Cone, whose word war stemming from a Kelly Williams slam dunk in the waning seconds of Game 2 which the Realtors won, added fire and drama to the best-of-seven affair.

Williams, veteran big men Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino, Nelbert Omolon, Ryan Reyes and gung-ho guard Joseph Yeo will be back to spearhead the team’s bid to become the first back-to-back champion of the Philippine Cup since Great Taste in 1985.

As they shoot for their only third Championship against the Aces, let us take a position-by-position look, with the Realtors listed first:

Point Guard:

Dennis Miranda vs. LA Tenorio: Both players are true point guards, but Miranda is more of a passer and Tenorio a shooter. Unlike Tenorio, Miranda has been underrated as an all-around player, and most of his shots only drop when his team needs a basket most. Meanwhile, Tenorio is not really a solid defender, but he has a variety of offensive arsenal, including perimeter shots. Tenorio can snarl with the best in the league, but Miranda has more athleticism and can contain Tenorio's offense with a rugged stance. Edge: Realtors.

Shooting Guard:

Ryan Reyes vs. Willie Miller: If his injury has truly healed, Reyes can keep Miller busy on defense, especially in an open court. However, Miller is by far one of the only three players in the league who plays best in his position. Besides, Miller is showing Most Valuable Player (MVP) numbers right now, while Reyes had to contend with various illnesses and injuries. Edge: Aces.

Small Forward:

Kelly Williams vs. Joe De Vance: With his long arms and skinny frame, Williams looks like the world’s largest praying mantis. And prey on opponents is exactly what he does, blocking shots and burying long-range jumpers. However, Williams' numbers are significantly down this season and there is no telling when he can get his offensive form back. De Vance, on the other hand, has found a perfect fit in the Aces' rotation. It seems he just had a second life and when he is on his game there is little anybody can do about it, simply because he is so athletic. The bottom line here is that Williams numbers are down, while De Vance's output is up. Edge: Aces, by a whisker.

Power Forward:

Nelbert Omolon vs. Reynel Hugnatan: Omolon is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and has always used his athleticism to getaway from his guard down low, which would be enough to give Hugnatan lot of fits. Hugnatan, meanwhile, is producing great numbers for the Aces, especially in the rebounding department. In other words, if Hugnatan can establish his low-post presence against Omolon in the game, then the Aces has an advantage. However, Omolon can explode anytime, especially in a tight game and he is not even expected to carry most of the load for the Realtors. Edge: Even.


Dennis Espino vs. Sonny Thoss: Thoss may have his hand full against Espino because he will be facing a starting center who can easily defend an opposing player one-on-one. Thoss may be able to score some points if he is isolated against Espino, but he definitely will need a lot of pick-n-roll plays to get him free and score a bundle. Espino is a great straight-up defender, but his low post positioning remains in question despite averaging almost 6 rebounds in the elimination. The saving grace for Espino is that Thoss will now have second-thoughts of sagging in defense and will now be obligated to guard someone who can maneuver at the post. Edge: Even.


Joseph Yeo can easily slide up and be the Realtors starting shooting guard. He is also one of the league’s most exciting players to watch in an open court or in making big shots on offense and be a major nuisance on defense. However, Yeo usually needs to get his confidence up first before the Realtors can expect big things from him, including good shot selection. The Aces, on the other hand, have Jeffrey Cariaso, Tony Dela Cruz, John Ferriols, Larry Fonacier and Mark Borboran who are the perfect role players. The Realtors will counter with veterans Marlou Aquino, Paolo Mendoza, Norman Gonzalez and even rookie Kelvin Gregorio. However, if the Realtors’ bench fails to give their aging bodies good conditioning, this could be where the Aces will get most of their production. Edge: Aces.


Boyet Fernandez vs. Tim Cone: Boyet Fernandez has done more with less than any man in PBA history, maybe with the exception of Yeng Guiao and Perry Ronquillo. If anybody is starting a team from scratch, with no players on the roster, they definitely should try to hire Fernandez. In the Realtors' last game against the Aces, Fernandez’s role players have come up big against their counterparts. Cone, on the other hand, needs to Coach less since his team is fully-loaded with superstars. The Aces bench can even qualify as a starting unit for teams like Redbull. Cone is a legendary and scientific coach; Fernandez is more open to new plays and a great motivator. Edge: Even.

Bottom line:

After reading the above, it is easily understandable to assume that the Aces will win a game or two. That is definitely right - the Giants will win one game, two if they are lucky because of their Finals experience. However, the Realtors own an edge in every other intangible. They also have extra motivation since it they can become the first team since 1985 to be able to defend their crown successfully.

The Aces are a very good team with lots of superstars and potential MVP’s. They will put up a big fight and will try to overwhelm the Realtors with talents and bench rotation. However, let uss face it, the Realtors have already beaten the Aces in the elimination with a big margin, and they are at least as good as and experienced as the Aces, probably better. Prediction: Realtors in six.

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