Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

PBA Governors Cup Finals: Slammed

by rick olivares with photo by nuki sabio

There are four moments that will embody Game 7 of the 2011 Philippine Basketball Association Governors Cup. Two each for Petron and for Talk ‘N Text.

The first for Petron was with time running down in the second quarter. Talk ‘N Text’s Ranidel de Ocampo drove in for a one-handed dunk when the Blaze Boosters’ elongated forward Arwind Santos met him up high and emphatically rejected him to maintain a 40-34 lead going into the halftime break.

Santos, who would be adjudged Finals MVP after the game, played all three frontcourt positions in the final game and guarded everyone from Kelly Williams to Maurice Baker to Ali Peek to Jason Castro. And after 48 minutes of play, Santos, in his fourth PBA finals, was finally a champion.

That play encapsulated the incredible achievement of Petron in winning a record 19th title for the San Miguel Corporation team while denying Talk ‘N Text’s bid for only the fifth grand slam in Philippine Basketball Association history. The telecommunications franchise had won three championships including a third place finish in the last three years and looked to be building a new dynasty.

Petron’s win, the first win by the SMC franchise outside using the “San Miguel” brand name, was to send a signal that they were not ready to surrender supremacy to a corporate rival.

The Boosters, playing with a vastly depleted bench due to injuries, picked up from head coach Ato Agustin’s fiery lead, in thoroughly outplaying the pre-tournament favorites in Game 7 of the Governors Cup.

Agustin’s charges shot 43.2% from the field, pulled down 51 rebounds, and had 9 steals as compared to the 32.9% shooting, 48 rebounds, and 2 steals of the Tropang Texters of Chot Reyes.

The second key moment for Petron was when import Anthony Grundy poked the ball away from TNT import Maurice Baker (after a poor inbound by de Ocampo) that Santos picked up for a flush that put the game out of reach 81-73 with 37 seconds left.

Grundy, who had played basketball in almost every continent, did not plane into Manila with gaudy numbers. He wasn’t sleek or overpowering. “He is efficient,” glowed Agustin. “Quiet but highly efficient.”

After Jason Castro, hobbled with a MCL injury, inspired Talk ‘N Text to come back and briefly overtake Petron, 42-41 after a Ranidel de Ocampo flush, Grundy scored 7 of the next 12 points by Petron to re-take control of the match.

Grundy would finish with a game high 26 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals.

Both teams had played over 60 games this 36th season of the PBA and were already pretty banged up but it was the Boosters, despite being reduced to 11 men (with forward Jojo Duncil being thrown out in the first half following a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2 – the “Landing Spot Rule”) who showed remarkable resiliency and energy in closing out a hotly contested series.

While Petron found strength in what it perceived to be an insult when they felt that TNT deliberately chose them as their finals foe as opposed to Ginebra or Alaska, the Tropang Texters were in the game because of the courage of Castro.

The first moment for the grand slam-seeking team was when Castro, the former PCU Dolphin came back late in the third quarter to block Grundy’s post up attempt. The quicksilver TNT, point guard already suffering from a MCL injury rolled his ankle at the height of their third quarter rally. Coming back with his left ankle heavily taped, Castro tried to make a go of it but the pain became too unbearable and he asked out of the game.

Without Castro, Talk ‘n Text ended the game like how they started it -- somewhat flat, disconnected, and hoisting up bricks.

And that brings us to TNT’s second moment with Petron holding a 79-73 lead with under a minute to go when swingman Larry Fonacier let lose a trey that hit only the backboard.

Fonacier was dubbed “Lucky Larry” for having been able to win championships with Red Bull, Alaska, and Talk ‘n Text. But in Game 6, Fonacier along with Ali Peek and Ryan Reyes played long minutes in their Game 6 victory but only combined for 13 points. On Sunday night, in the ultimate game of the season, the three would collectively play 46 minutes with only two points to their name. Fonacier, the 6’3” forward, who had become a key contributor in TNT’s entire season, finished with zero points and missed all 10 of his field goals.

On the cusp of history, Talk ‘n Text folded like a house of cards.

Even with the final buzzer long since sounded, Petron head coach Ato Agustin still wanted to have the last word in. “Pinagbigyan nila kami. Nagkamali sila.”

It was a momentous triumph and at the same time one of the league’s greatest upsets.

And for sure, it will be talked about for quite a long time.

1 comment:

  1. Great Finals series that went to Game 7!Game 7 was a letdown though because of TNT's fold up Glaring was Fonacier's exteded "vacation" in "brickland", as he was shooting bricks given extended playing time including that 3 pt. shot you highlighted. Hope he hasn't lost the lucky charm of winning championships.