Alaska, Ginebra meet in finals after 16 years
MANILA, Philippines – As the league commissioner says, this is a championship series that needs no hype.
The storyline is thick – the drama dripping -- as Barangay Ginebra and Alaska Milk face off in an intriguing showdown for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown beginning Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The drama unfolds with the opener of the short best-of-five titular showdown at 7:30 p.m.
It’s a dream finals between two franchises both chasing a breakthrough triumph with their new core group, new coach and new main men.
On one side is the Alaska team that has put up a dominant showing from the elimination round and on the other corner is the Ginebra squad which has made a giant turnaround from its scrambling start in the mid-season conference.
As the playoffs top seeds, the Aces roared on in the post-elims plays, disposing of the Air21 Express in one game in the quarterfinals then easing past the San Mig Coffee Mixers in four games in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, seventh-seeded Ginebra, with injury woes and all, made a giant-killing run, wiping out Rain or Shine’s twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters then outfighting Talk 'N Text in a do-or-die Game Five in the Final Four.
Now, both are out to sustain their amazing run through the finals.
They go to the battle each team having players out to complete compelling stories of their own.
Calvin Abueva is after a grand slam feat of sort, that is, winning a title right in his rookie year in all levels – NCAA, PBL, PBA D-League and PBA.
Cyrus Baguio, LA Tenorio and Mac Baracael are after a title against their former teams while Jayjay Helterbrand and Kerby Raymundo want to cap their resurgence with a championship coronation.
Then there are bench chieftains Luigi Trillo and Alfrancis Chua looking to become the newest addition to the PBA roster of champion coaches.
“There’s really no need to hype the series. The storyline is thick and self-evident. It’s a special treat to the fans,” said PBA commissioner Chito Salud.
Trillo and Chua said it’s an exciting series especially with the two teams being a study in contrast.
They said it doesn’t matter that the Aces swept the Kings in two games in the elims.
“We’re both hungry. There are so many issues. But in the end, I think it’s about who wants it more,” said Chua.
“It’s really an exciting series. It’s fire and ice with our contrasting styles. Ginebra thrives on open court while we love to set up half-court basketball. They love to run and score on transition, and we have our strengths limiting the other team’s points and assists and forcing turnovers. You see the difference there,” said Trillo.
Trillo points to Ginebra’s veteran players while Chua to Alaska’s bench as players who could be the x-factor in the series.
Raymundo and Helterbrand are two old warriors who have regained old forms, giving Ginebra tremendous lift in their incredible playoff run.
Meanwhile, Abueva, Dondon Hontiveros and Tony dela Cruz are among off-the-bench players giving Alaska much depth and stability.
“It’s my dream to play Ginebra in the finals. Hopefully, we beat them and make a show for the fans,” said Dela Cruz.
“We’re just so excited to play in this finals,” said Raymundo.
It’s the first Alaska-Ginebra finals in 16 years.
Alaska is in pursuit of a first championship in its post-Tim Cone era and 14th in all in franchise history, while Ginebra is in chase of a first title in five years and ninth overall.