Bong Hawkins bringing the ball down from the backcourt against Jerry Codiñera to break the press. Bong Ravena trying to keep in step with Jojo Lastimosa. Dindo Pumaren and Johnny Abarrientos picking each other’s pockets. [firstpara] Kenneth Duremdes at the top of the key, isolated against Rey Evangelista. Alvin Patrimonio turning around, fading away, and hitting the clutch basket over the outstretched arms of Poch Juinio.
Purefoods versus Alaska.
The match-up is a blast from the past, with new faces donning familiar jerseys. Patrimonio is now glued to the Purefoods sidelines, as its team manager, his hair noticeably thinner.
Lastimosa has also retired, and now works as an Alaska assistant coach, trading in his uniform for a business get-up that covers up his famously sexy legs.
Tim Cone, who has been coaching Alaska for the past 21 years, is still there, his face more weathered and his potbelly more apparent.
It had been ten years since he last won an all-Filipino championship. He is continuing his chase of the championship record held by his coaching idol, ‘The Maestro’ Baby Dalupan, gunning for championship no. 13 for the franchise.
Up against him on the other sideline is Ryan Gregorio, the boyish-looking coach who has endured more criticism than Hayden Kho from Purefoods fans disappointed with the team’s performance.
Gregorio was his usual loquacious self during the post-game interview after his team disposed of San Miguel in the semifinals, but it was his team’s feat that did the loudest talking: In the last three games versus the powerhouse Beermen, Purefoods never gave their opponents a taste of the lead. Not even for a second.
Both teams are seeking redemption. Alaska came several seconds away from winning last year’s Philippine Cup finals against Talk ‘N Text, but crucial missed free throws from stars Willie Miller and Joe Devance and a muffed layup by Miller killed their chances.
They were a team in turmoil afterwards, with Miller going so far as to demand a trade. But Alaska management spent the entire offseason mending fences, and they ended up keeping the team quite intact.
They were a team on a mission when the Philippine Cup opened, finishing in first place at the end of the elimination phase of the tournament, and drawing a quarterfinals bye.
They took care of business in the semifinals against Ginebra, beating the tar out of the crowd favorites and winning in four straight games.
WORDS BY: JAEMARK TORDECILLA