A special moment for Talk ‘N Text
by rick olivares pics by brosi gonzales and me
No excuses. No talk. Just great basketball and some excellent counter moves by the two different coaching staffs.
Talk ‘n Text responded to their Game Four loss to Powerade by coming out like gangbusters. They pressured the Tigers at every possession. They blocked Gary David’s first shot. They raided the passing lanes and pounded the ball inside to Kelly Williams at every opportunity.
When the Tigers shut down the lane, TNT gave them a dose of their own medicine when Larry Fonacier hit a pair of triples and three free throws.
After Fonacier’s string of nine straight points, TNT’s lead was at 46-18. The Tigers came back when Sean Anthony and Rommel Adducul began to go inside.
However, Powerade’s fusillade from the outside can be contagious as TNT in one stretch began to bombard from the outside to no avail. In the meantime, Marcio Lassiter strung up eight of Powerade’s next 10 points to bring the lead down to 12, 70-58.
TNT’s head coach Chot Reyes called for time to remind them to take it to the rack. Ali Peek and Ranidel de Ocampo went back to work and without Doug Kramer’s usual production in the lane to counteract TNT’s attack, the lead ballooned up to 24, 82-58.
Powerade’s usual high volume of accurate outside shots eventually brought them back. After David’s trey at the two-minute mark, the deficit was down to nine, 103-94. But TNT withstood David’s onslaught and matched every Powerade shot with one of their own while Ryan Reyes destroyed Powerade on defense to win 110-101.
The Tropang Texters, denied a grand slam last year, instead found themselves as the first repeat All-Filipino champions in 27 years. In a conversation with Reyes, he admitted that he didn’t think that they could repeat when the injuries started piling up culminating in the attempted slay try on Peek. It was especially sweet for Reyes as he was graduating from Ateneo in 1985 at the time when the Great Taste Coffeemakers won the last back-to-back titles. Reyes made the Mythical Five Selection that year in the UAAP alongside UE’s Jerry Codinera and Allan Caidic, FEU’s Glenn Capacio and UST’s Pido Jarencio. “Ako lang ang hindi nag-PBA sa batch na yan,” said Reyes.
Defending an All-Filipino crown took 27 years in the making so actually mas matagal pa sa last grand slam. And this makes it a lot sweeter. I believe that championships are made of special moments. And nothing more special than the near tragedy of Ali Peek. There we were the entire team gathered around Ali Peek’s bed and Kelly (Williams) said, ‘Let’s offer a prayer and let’s pray together as a team.’ And there we were the entire team gathered around a fallen comrade offering a prayer. At that point, it was a big step where the bond between individuals got cemented. Even when everyone got injured we found ways to win in the elimination round.”
“The second moment was when we were down 3-1 to Petron when even I was thinking that maybe this wasn’t for us. But they players wouldn’t allow it. When we did make it back I felt that was a sure sign. My last thought to the players, when I looked at Ali (when he was shot), I was thinking I wasn’t going to see this same batch of guys together again. To come in the verge of another championship all we talked about was, ‘Let’s not waste this opportunity because we will never know when we will be in this position again. That was the mindset that we took heading into this finals.”
Aside from the Ali Peek shooting and the numerous injuries Talk ‘N Text suffered along the way, the Tropang Texters had to deal with Smart Gilas’ debilitating loss in Wuhan, China. “Kelly, Ranidel, and Jimmy were devastated by our loss there and that was one reason why we had to give them time off – for their minds to heal. That’s what makes this win even more special because of all our spectacular lows. At the end of the road it truly made for a memorable conference.”
The PBA Press Corps as the Finals MVP selected Fonacier. A decision lauded by Reyes. “What a perfect choice!” exclaimed the eight-time PBA winner. In this All-Filipino we had 21 players in uniform because of all our injuries. He (Fonacier) was the only one who played in every game (including last season). It says a lot about one’s presence.”
Above: Chot Reyes post-game. Take note of the bottle of Gatorade. Below: Larry Fonacier has won five PBA titles (one with Red Bull, one with Alaska, and three with Talk 'N Text). Maybe he's also saying that Ateneo will win five straight too in the UAAP!