Sports: Energy, Llamados in final four
Sunday’s pair of do-or-die matches between Barako Bull and Alaska as well as that of B-Meg and Meralco proved to be the last Commissioner’s Cup outing for both the Aces and the Bolts as Willie Miller and company waylaid Coach Joel Banal’s charges in the opener while the Llamados outclassed Earl Barron’s B-Boys in the main game via contrasting fashion to advance into the semis picture.
Mentor Junel Baculi’s Energy bamboozled the highly fancied Alaska side via a huge 106-85 shellacking en route to a Final Four showdown with reigning Second Conference champion Talk ‘N Text as new import Gabe Freeman won his personal duel with Mexican reinforcement Adam Parada of the Aces in Game 3 of their quarterfinals duel, 34-18.
Actually, Freeman moved in as replacement for the ineffective Reggie Okosa who went scoreless in the Energy’s Game 1 demolition of Alaska and after the African reinforcement was signed by Barako Bull with Rodney White’s return from the US to attend to his ailing father evidently becoming doubtful prior to the playoffs as he was a no-show.
The Energy took Game 1 against the Aces, 103-90, behind Ronald Tubid, Danny Seigle and Miller before Alaska reduced the best-of-three quarters duel to a mere winner-take-all encounter in last Sunday’s clash after the Aces took Game 2 via a 99-92 triumph during last Wednesday’s meeting at the Big Dome.
But the No.5 seeded Energy had other things in mind when Freeman exploded for 34 markers in Game 3 as Barako Bull coasted to a big 21-point victory on Easter Sunday to arrange a best-of-five affair with the Tropang Texters, the top seeds in the Commissioner’s Cup, for one of the two finals slots at stake beginning with a Tuesday meeting in Antipolo City (today).
In the other quarterfinals pairing, Meralco won the franchise’ first ever playoff game with a morale-boosting 103-81 win against the Llamados in Game 1 last April 1 as Barron and Macmac Cardona connived for Coach Ryan Gregorio’s first playoff triumph with the Bolts in the last five conferences after his transfer from B-Meg last 2010.
However, the Llamados of mentor Tim Cone took Game 2 by 10 markers, 95-85, three days later as Cardona was ejected less than two minutes into the game and after scoring just two points due to two successive technical fouls, first for his verbal altercation with Josh Urbiztondo and another due to a flagrant foul committed against import Denzel Bowles of B-Meg.
With their backs against the wall and after losing their own do-or-die meeting with sister team Ginebra two weeks ago in the playoff battle for the second automatic semis seat, the Llamados leaned on the heroics of do-it-all big man Marc Pingris in Game 2 as he scored 21 points to lead B-Meg in hustle and in offense with Bowles adding 20 markers in a winning cause.
In Game 3, the No. 3 Llamados engaged the sixth-seeded Bolts to a nip-and-tuck duel early on with Meralco taking a precarious 23-21 lead after the opening canto and with B-Meg taking back the halftime advantage at 42-40. Meralco was in fact leading B-Meg, 67-61, after three quarters behind Sol Mercado and Barron’s scoring.
The Llamados, however, were the far more better quintet in the payoff period as an oft-injured Jonas Villanueva was finally fielded in by Cone in the final period to lead B-Meg to a 25-9 fourth quarter silencing of the opposition. Meralco never had a field goal in the final 11 minutes of the game due to the Llamados’ pesky defense on Barron and Mercado.
Cardona was also limited to another two-point performance in the uneventful Game 3 for the Bolts even though Mercado had 27 and Barron chipped in 23 points. The Bolts missed a lot of shots from beyond the arc as well as from the freethrow line hence the defeat. B-Meg will battle the Kings starting on Wednesday also in Antipolo in their own race-to-three semis duel for the other finals seat.
Belated happy 9th natal day to my youngest daughter Rica Paola last Monday, April 9. Likewise, welcome home Rodney Fernandez of Oton, Iloilo and Diana Dideles of Iloilo City, my classmates at West Visayas State University-College of Nursing (Class 1996). Both are on timely break from their respective nursing careers in the United Kingdom and the US, respectively.
Rods, thank you also for the English Football League jersey of Arsenal....*
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