If you’re a hoops crazed fellow then you’re in for a treat this week as championship games are set for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Athletic Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (NAASCU). The games are covered on television live at TV5, ABS CBN Sports and Action, and BTV and Solar Sports respectively.
In the PBA, the Meralco Bolts entered the finals for the first time in franchise history to tangle with fan-favorites Barangay Ginebra Kings for the PBA Governor’s Cup crown in a best-of-seven series. As of this writing, Meralco enjoys a 1-0 lead in the series after surviving Ginebra on Friday in overtime, 114-109. Both the Bolts and Kings were unexpected combatants in the finals as they subdued their more fancied rivals in the best-of-five semis last week. Meralco thwarted sister team and erstwhile conference leader Talk N’ Text, 3-1, in the semis to get its first ever taste of the finals. Ginebra outlasted sister squad San Miguel Beer, 3-2, in their own semis clash.
The Ginebra-Meralco tussle has many interesting match-ups on the side. Two of the best coaching minds in the country in Meralco’s Norman Black and Ginebra’s Tim Cone figure in a virtual chess match in this series. Cone and Black, both Americans who established a stellar coaching career here, are two of the winningest hoops mentors in the PBA. Cone holds the most PBA titles with 18, while Black comes at third after the late Baby Dalupan (15 championships) with eleven. Both coaches seek to get their first diadem with their current teams. Another noteworthy contest would be that of the two finest playmakers in the country and former National Team top point guards Jimmy Alapag of Meralco and LA Tenorio of Ginebra. In Game 1, Tenorio set a career-high 36 points against the Boltsbut Alapag had an equally enormous game after a crucial triple in the final moments of regulation tied Allan Caidic’s all-time record for most career three-points shots of 1,242 treys. Tenorio and Alapag are two of the most respected guards in the PBA. Not to be outdone is the marquee face-off between two of the leading rookies in the PBA today – Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson and Meralco’s Chris Newsome. Newsome leads all PBA newcomers in scoring with 13.28 points per game (PPG), assists with 4.67 assists per game (APG), and minutes played with 33.38. Thompson rules the rebounding department among rookies with 8.22 rebounds per game (RPG), and is No. 2 in assists with 4.16 APG.
In the NCAA, 19-time champion San Beda drew first blood in the best-of-three finals versus Arellano with an 88-85 victory last Thursday. It was a seesaw affair the whole encounter, with seven lead changes. Rookie Robert Bolick showed the way for the Red Lions with 24 markers and ten boards, while Chiefs’ main man Jio Jalalon sizzled with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Three other rookies scored in double digits for San Beda – Ben Adamos (16), Arnaud Noah (14) and Davon Potts (11). Jalalon’s best buddy Kent Salado added 19 points and six assists for Arellano. San Beda and Arellano are two of the top offensive teams in the NCAA with their high-octane style of play. If you love the up-tempo game, this is the match-up for you. Expect the Chiefs to bounce back in Game 2, which is scheduled tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena, even as the Lions go for a 2-0 sweep like they did two years ago against the same rivals.
The NAASCU games are definitely worth watching as well. There have been a number of spectacular jousts here that can measure up with the leading collegiate basketball tournaments. In the on-going semis, both the Philippine Christian University (PCU) Dolphins and Lyceum of Subic Bay Sharks forced a rubber match against the Our Lady of Fatima University Phoenix and St. Clare College of Caloocan Saints respectively. The best-of-three championship is set this week at the Makati Coliseum. PCU has some of the best scorers in college ball today, led by the frightful trio of Mike Ayonayon, Yves Sazon and Von Tambeling, all transferees from Letran College.
What a great week in Philippine hoops.