MANILA—Grand Slam slammed.
Down to 10 players for one of the most important PBA matches in franchise history, Petron Blaze last night completed the improbable by turning back Talk ‘N Text, 85-73, in a Game 7 to remember that made the Tropang Texters miss their date with destiny.
With steely resolve that countered the most powerful roster on paper, the Boosters were the epitome of total team play all night to control the rubber match 99% of the way and bag the season-ending Governors’ Cup before 17,000 boisterous fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Trailing just twice all game, the Boosters tenaciously held their ground in the face of a dogged Talk ‘N Text stand as Anthony Grundy made up for a lackluster Game 6 while getting support from a shorthanded local lineup that played with the heart befitting champions.
Grundy scattered 26 points, half of them coming in the third period where the Boosters blew control only to regain it just as quick and put away Talk ‘N Text’s aspirations of joining the immortal squads in the league which have completed Grand Slams.
Arwind Santos scored 16 points, had 16 rebounds, three blocks and three steals as he literally put a huge hand in winning his first championship while bagging the PBA Press Corps-Phoenix Fuels MVP Finals award.
Maurice Baker led the Texters with 22 points, Ranidel de Ocampo added 15 and Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag had 13 each, but the Texters couldn’t buy the buckets when they needed them and absorbed one of the most stinging losses in their PBA existence.
It was the 19th overall championship for Petron/San Miguel, which scored its version of the Grand Slam in 1989 when now-coach Ato Agustin was one of its superstar guards.
“They made a mistake when they picked us to be their Finals opponent,” Agustin addressed the crowd in Filipino at midcourt in the din of the celebration. “This is my sweetest championship.”
And in the 36-year history of the PBA, only one other team before Talk ‘N Text, the defunct Toyota Comets in 1975, was able to come within a championship of completing a Grand Slam before losing in the Third Conference Finals.
Crispa, which completed the first Triple Crown sweep the following year, spoiled Toyota’s march to PBA immortality by pounding out a 96-91 decision, interestingly enough, also in the rubber match of their series, which was a Game 5.
Sunkist also won the first two conferences of the 1995 season only to fail to make the Finals of the Third Conference, while Alaska, which scored its treble the following year, gave up its shot at a second Grand Slam in 1998 with the Centennial Team.
The Uytengsu franchise loaned its coach, Tim Cone, and superstars Jojo Lastimosa, Bong Hawkins, Kenneth Duremdes and Johnny Abarrientos to the Philippine Five that played in the Bangkok Asian Games that year.
Jason Castro played through an MCL tear to spark the Texters in Game 6, but couldn’t ignore the pain of a severely twisted left ankle suffered in the third quarter Sunday night.
After being helped back into the locker room with 9:35 left in the third, Castro returned in the fourth but was clearly hobbled – and much obvious this time – and had to ask coach Chot Reyes to relieve him after just a few minutes on the floor.
Baker, who played just his second game in the Finals after taking over from Scottie Reynolds, was playing well in the first half until he was slapped with his fourth foul while trying to stop Miranda from taking a keyhole jumper.
He was scoreless in the third period as the Boosters regained control after trailing for just the second time in the contest, 41-42, courtesy of a Williams three-point play off Grundy with 9:22 to play.
The Texters were able to chop down what was once a 14-point deficit to six a number of times in the second quarter and had a golden chance to come into the halftime break just four points behind only for Santos to swat away a De Ocampo slam attempt.
Talk ‘N Text led just once in the first half – 3-0 after a Jimmy Alapag triple – only for the Boosters to shoot five straight points and play with command until the end of the first two quarters.
Santos gave the Boosters a 24-13 lead with 2:50 left in the first period after a jumper. He also hit a short stab off the glass with 7:35 left in the second period for a 34-21 lead.
PETRON 85—Grundy 26, Santos 16, Miranda 16, Ildefonso 13, Cabagnot 12, Pennisi 2, Duncil 0, Hubalde 0, Salvacion 0.
TALK ‘N TEXT 73—Baker 22, De Ocampo 15, Williams 13, Alapag 13, Carey 6, Castro 2, Peek 2, Dillinger 0, Reyes 0, Aban 0. Fonacier 0, Alvarez 0.
Quarters: 28-17, 40-34, 64-53, 85-73