Harris the real deal as Texters win for twice-to-beat edge
MANILA: No one has said it when he came over, but after Friday night’s gargantuan effort, Paul Harris, though shorter than the other imports in the PBA Governors’ Cup, is indeed the perfect fit for Talk ‘N Text.
Harris exploded with nine triples and finished with a PBA career-high 39 points to lead the Tropang Texters to a 92-88 victory over defending champion San Mig Coffee for the first twice-to-beat bonus in the season-ending conference at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The 6-foot-3 Harris, playing his third tournament as just the third import choice for the Texters, also plucked down 14 rebounds and provided a lot of energy for the Texters, who missed the services of former MVP Jimmy Alapag but still pounded out the win against one of the best teams in the league.
“This is a very important win for us because we got the (twice-to-beat) bonus,” Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black, who first tried out Othyus Jeffers and then Rodney Carney before ending up with Harris, said. “A lot of credit has to go to Paul Harris. He shot the ball very, very well.”
The Talk ‘N Text defense also did its job in the waning minutes, holding the Mixers to just three points — a meaningless James Yap triple with around three seconds remaining — inside the final 1:50 as the Texters rose to 6-2 and neared No. 1 spot for the second straight tournament.
San Mig, which will complete just the fifth Grand Slam in league history with a repeat title run here, dropped to 5-3 and would need to win its last outing, against Rain or Shine on Monday, to avail of the quarterfinal bonus.
Alaska continued gathering steam after its franchise-worst performance, bringing down tall and beefy Barangay Ginebra, 79-66, in the first game.
The Aces held the Gin Kings to a paltry 25 points in the first half and to just 15 points in the final period to hammer out the win, their fourth in eight games that put them into the quarterfinals.
Ginebra, meanwhile, dropped out of the lead and failed in the first of two tries it has to gain a twice-to-beat privilege in the quarterfinals at 5-3. The Kings close out against Talk ‘N Text Sunday night.
“I think it was the pride of the players that has surfaced since that (51-point loss to Rain or Shine two weeks ago),” Alaska coach Alex Compton told reporters after winning a second straight game since that 123-72 loss.
“I did nothing special about it except tell them that this is not us (losing that big),” Compton continued. “And they responded. This is the way they really can play.”
Ginebra is now also faced with the same prospect of hurdling its last foe, and it won’t be easy especially after Black declared after the win over San Mig that his Texters will go all out for No. 1 –— and the lightest quarterfinal round assignment.
“I don’t really know how to take it easy,” Black replied when someone asked if he would be playing it coy against the Kings after booking the first twice-to-beat slot.
Protecting a shaky 85-84 lead, Harris drained the last of his triples with 2:06 to got to make it a four-point spread, before Ranidel de Ocampo and Jason Castro added free throws each that made it 90-85 with 31.2 ticks to go.
Harris then put the game to bed with a layup after Castro broke up San Mig’s last-gasp play by intercepting Marqus Blakely’s entry pass to Marc Pingris.
Meanwhile, Air21, which is tied for second with the Kings and the Mixers, battle San Miguel Beer today at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan at 5:15 p.m., looking for no less than a win to join the Texters on the same boat.
Friday night’s results also completed the quarterfinal cast, with Meralco getting eliminated even without playing.
At 2-6 and because of the Alaska win, the best that the Bolts could hope for is to improve to 3-6 with a win over ousted Globalport also Saturday in Binan. But because of the winner-over-the-other rule, Barako Bull will advance to the quarterfinals in the event that the Energy fall into a tie with the Bolts.