|PBA: Alaska Team|
News: Yahoo News
After a gruelling quarterfinals series that went the distance, they had to endure the torture that was Talk and Text in the semis. But Alaska outlasted its determined foes and will now gun for the franchise’s 13th title since joining the Philippine Basketball Association in 1986.
Winning this title is made even more special as it is the 100th championship series since the league started. While Alaska is looking for its 13th crown, defending champion San Miguel, which has won the most titles in the PBA, is gunning for No. 19.
The Aces lost their starting center Sonny Thoss four minutes into the opening quarter of Game 5 and missed the next following battles. But turning a problem into an opportunity, the Aces worked with what they had and outhustled the fully loaded Talk and Text platoon. They were a smaller but faster team. The likes of Rey Hugnatan, Tony dela Cruz, Joe Devance and Mark Borboran responded to the challenge and joined the concerted effort to survive their opponents’ incredible talent and firepower.
But the Aces could get their ceiling back in the middle of the finals.
“We found out from Dr. (George) Canlas that the chip bone (on Thoss’ right foot) is an old injury with the national team. So we X-rayed it again and it had healed. It was diagnosed as a second-degree sprain on his ankle so we’re hoping he can get back maybe Game 3 or 4,” said Alaska coach Tim Cone. “We will need Sonny Thoss because we’re similar in size. It’s really early for Sam (Eman) to get into Sonny’s role right now, but that is part of the plan for him. We need help from Sam. SMB is big and tough. We have to be creative.”
Coach Tim shared that he asked his wards: “Are we ready to play after all we’ve been through? Are we ready to go for another two-and-a-half weeks?” His players all gave a resounding: “Yes!” More than the commitment, Cone has been impressed with the team effort, even in practices.
Meanwhile San Miguel has had five days of rest. But their definition of rest is being relentless in practice and determined in hitting the weight room. Although Dorian Peña cautioned that rest sometimes equals rust.
“Sometimes the team that comes straight from a series and jumps right into another one has the momentum and if they are rolling like Alaska, they are hard to stop. So hopefully we will be able to defend against the triangle,” Peña said.
San Miguel Coach Siot Tanquingcen had the pleasure of attending the Alaska-TNT Game 7 live and had a closer look at the opposition. It will be his first finals showdown against Coach Tim and it will take incredible effort to outsmart one of the league’s most decorated.
The Fiesta Finals battle starts Friday. Fifty-three out of 81 teams which took a 1-0 lead in a best-of-7 series went on to win the series, which means a 65-percent chance that whoever emerges victorious tonight will win it all.