Final showdown

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Monday, June 30, 2014


MANILA—The San Mig Coffee Mixers continue their chase for a grand slam as they battle Rain or Shine Elasto Painters today in Game 1 of the best-of-five finals series of the 39th PBA Governors Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Even with their 95-94 win over the Coffee Mixers in their lone encounter in the short elimination round last June 16, coach Yeng Guiao said they face tremendous odds in battling coach Tim Cone’s team.

Both the Coffee Mixers and the Elasto Painters went through the eye of a needle before disposing separate opponents in the best-of-five semifinal round. San Mig Coffee prevailed over Talk ‘N Text, 3-2, while Rain or Shine beat the Alaska Aces, 3-2, to reach the finals for the second time in the last three conferences.

The 16-time champion Cone, the winningest coach in the league, said that the quest for a grand slam is much harder this time than in 1996, the last time he won the elusive triple crown with the Alaska Aces during the time of Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, Jeffrey Cariaso and Dickie Backmann.

“It’s a bit tougher this time around in some ways. The conferences and the games have been so close together and it’s been a battle of attrition. Also, there are so many great teams to go through,” said Cone.

Rain or Shine, which lost to San Mig Coffee in the Finals of this season’s Philippine Cup, will avenge the setback and definitely used its experiences to stop Cone’s charges and derail a grand slam bid.

“I don’t think the purpose of going to the finals is just to play. We want to make our own history. It’s not just about trying to stop them. It’s about trying to win a championship for us,” said Guiao.

The series definitely will be focused on two good imports in Marqus Blakely of San Mig Coffee and Arizona Reid of Rain or Shine. The 6’5” Blakely, last year’s best import awardee, will be playing for the third straight year. He is all out to give the Mixers a fourth straight championship and just the league’s fifth Grand Slam. Crispa got the first two, while San Miguel scored a grand slam in 1989 before Alaska did it in 1996.

“We’re in the finals probably because it’s our destiny. It’s not that we don’t deserve to be here. But it’s just that we have something in store for us here,” Guiao added.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 01, 2014.

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