MANILA, Philippines - With its back against the wall, Talk n Text stayed focused and fought with determination every inch of the way, mangling Barako Bull, 108-90, and forcing a deciding Game Five in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup Final Four confrontation last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tropang Texters imposed their will early, building a 16-point bulge in the first half and dominating the Energy to the finish, thus, keeping their hopes for a title repeat in the mid-season tourney they won over the Barangay Ginebra Kings last year.
Forging a two-game deadlock in the series, the Texters battle the Energy in a do-or-die match at 6:45 p.m. tomorrow, also at the Big Dome.
Ginebra likewise tries to force a sudden death with B-Meg in their side of the semis also at 6:45 p.m. tonight at the same venue.
The Gin Kings stayed alive by stopping the Llamados, 88-79, Sunday to force a fourth game.
“I’d like to say that we beat ourselves last game by playing with little focus and awareness,” said B-Meg coach Tim Cone. But when our guys come out like that, it’s on me. It’s my fault. I’ll need to have them better prepared for Game Four.”
TnT coach Chot Reyes, meanwhile, stressed the need for the Texters to focus on the task at hand.
“All we did was tied the series. We can’t celebrate, not for one minute. We can’t be satisfied. We’re just halfway there,” said Talk n Text coach Reyes.
“Hopefully, we will come out with even more energy in the next game. The same amount of energy won’t make the job done. We have to play better,” Reyes added.
After Game Three, Barako coach Junel Baculi promised they would do their best to “slay the giant in Game Four.”
The Texters, however, played every inch a champion team, smothering the Energy with their firepower and hardly giving them a chance to recover.
The match was practically over by the third period after the Texters posted leads of as many as 29 points.
They breezed through in a game they couldn’t afford to lose, completing the romp that could give them the needed momentum heading to the sudden death.
TnT forward Ranidel de Ocampo underscored the Texters gutsy stand, bucking a cut in his right eyebrow and returning to deliver huge numbers.
He went 2-of-2 from the three-point area and finished with a game-high 23 points that went with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block against three turnovers.
For Barako, import Gabe Freeman proved to be the biggest flop in a match the Energy had hoped to hurdle, going 1-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from the stripe for his least output (six points) in a game in all his playing stints in the PBA dating back to 2009 with San Miguel Beer.
It was the first time ever, he was held to single-digit output.
The Texters came out smoking, outscoring the Energy with a 13-2 binge to built leads of as many as 16 before settling for a 55-42 spread at the turn as Barako’s Ronald Tubid hit a buzzer triple triple.
The Texters set the tone of the game early as they converted 51.5 percent of their shots as against the Energy’s 31.4-percent clip in the first two quarters.
Talk n Text was efficient on both ends, forcing Barako to 12 turnovers and scoring 13 points off those miscues in the first 24 minutes of play.
Barako enjoyed the lead just once as Freeman nailed the game’s first basket from the stripe.