So far the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) semifinals have been as expected—thrilling, physical and grueling. The Alaska Aces and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, as of this writing, have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series versus the GlobalPort Batang Pier and San Miguel Beermen, respectively.
The semis started with a bang as Terrence Romeo exploded for 41 markers to lift the underdog GlobalPort to a 107-93 upset of Alaska in Game 1 of their series. The Aces allowed the prolific Gilas guard to get his rhythm early as they watched him erupt with 22 points in the first 24 minutes. Batang Pier got an early 24-6 lead. The other half of GlobalPort’s dynamic duo, Stanley Pringle, only needed to chip in 14 markers, but the first-time semis qualifier got unexpected support from Keith Jensen and veteran Billy Mamaril, who each added 12 points.
But the Aces came back with a statement and vengeful game in the second encounter, sending the Batang Pier back to earth with a 100-76 rout to even the series. Pringle and Romeo were still in their deadly form, combining for 42 markers. But this time, Mamaril and Jensen just had a total of three points.
Game 3 of the series was defense-oriented, which again favored Alaska. The Aces not only limited Romeo and Pringle’s output to a combined 29 points. They also challenged the Batang Pier’s outside shooting, reducing their firepower to a measly two-of-30 from behind the three-point arc.
Now we are beginning to see a pattern. First, GlobalPort needs a high-scoring game to win. A defensive ballgame disrupts its rhythm and even accuracy. It also needs either for Romeo or Pringle to have their guns blazing and score more than 23 points each, or have more contribution from the bench. If Terrence and Stanley are limited to below 20, Jay Washington, Joseph Yeo, Keith Jensen and Doug Kramer must add at least 10 markers each to get their team’s offense going. And then, guys like Rico Maierhofer and Anthony Semerad can chip in around six to eight points, and GlobalPort should be fine.
Alaska is a great example of team effort. The reason the Aces are hard to beat is because so many players can play big at any given time, and it’s tough to predict who would have the hot hands in a particular game. In the semis, Romeo and Pringle average a combined 42 points per game. For Alaska, the semis scoring leader is remarkably RJ Jazul, with 14.3 per game. But three other Aces are also averaging in double digits—Chris Banchero and Vic Manuel with 12 points each per outing, and Calvin Abueva with 10.7 ppg. Then Jayvee Casio, Cyrus Baguio and Sonny Thoss norm over eight points each. That’s balanced offense for you.
But this series is far from over. The Aces may have found the key to stamping out the Batang Pier in the series. But when Coach Pido Jarencio’s boys catch fire, GlobalPort’s offense will be tough to derail.
Now for the more unpredictable series – San Miguel versus Rain or Shine. June Mar Fajardo has been towering over everybody in the semis, averaging a whopping 38 ppg. And he has enough support in Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Ronald Tubid, who all add at least 11 points per game. This is excellent for any team.
So why is Rain or Shine ahead in the series? Like Alaska, they play with cohesion and passion.The Elasto Painters have more scorers in the pie, with nine players contributing at least 8.7 ppg – Beau Belga (13.3 ppg), JR Quinahan (13 ppg), Paul Lee (12.3 ppg), Jericho Cruz (10 ppg), Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood (9.7 ppg each), Raymond Almazan and Chris Tiu (9 ppg) and Jewel Ponferrada (8.7 ppg). They are very unpredictable in terms of player rotation and point production. But they play physical and energetic on defense. And even when Fajardo gets his numbers, he is often exhausted in endgame, with all that banging from Belga and company.
But Almazan and Cruz are reportedly sidelined by injuries.
The next semis games will be a chess match. But more importantly, the strong-willed will likely be left standing when the smoke clears. This is not for the lily-livered.