THE quest for a rare piece of PBA history begins on Wednesday for Talk `N Text when it battles Rain or Shine in Game One of the Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The two-time defending champion is bidding to become only the first team since the legendary Crispa Redmanizers to win an all-Filipino championship three straight times. The Floro franchise won it in 1979, 1980, 1983, and 1984 as no all-Filipino conference was held in 1981 and 1982.
So far the Tropang Texters – who became the first team in 27 years to rule the conference in back-to-back seasons - are right on track to a special feat that could net them the first ever Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.
The Manny V. Pangilinan franchise is also very much capable of going all the way after winning 16 of their first 20 games in the season-opening tournament, moving them just four wins away from completing the hat-trick.
“Our focus has been on just trying to win basketball games and trying to be the best team in the league," said Talk `N Text coach Norman Black, owner of 10 league championships in 15 Finals appearances.
“We know we’re not the most popular team, and I’m sure, Rain or Shine will agree with that. But we are playing the best basketball game that we are all proud of.”
One of only four coaches in PBA annals to achieve a rare Grand Slam, Black added, “Going against Rain or Shine will be very difficult for us. A lot of things they like to do, we also like to do, so something’s gonna give as the series goes on.”
Harvey Carey, one of only two remaining remnants of the original Talk `N Text team - along with guard Jimmy Alapag – that clinched the 2003 Philippine Cup title, expects the best-of-seven title series to be a lot tougher compared to the one the Texters had against Alaska in the semifinals.
“It’s gonna be a real tough series. I think it’s gonna be a long series. They (Elasto Painters) are a physical team. The Alaska series probably prepared us to play against Rain or Shine,” said the 33-year-old Carey, one of Black’s hard-working players off the bench.
“Their bigs mostly shoot from the outside. It will be a little bit more challenge for the big men for our team … We’ll definitely have our hands full.”
Out to foil Talk `N Text’s date with history is Yeng Guiao's Rain or Shine team which is in the Finals for the second straight time, buoyed by their successful title run in the last Governors Cup.
Though without a superstar in his roster, Guiao definitely likes his team’s chances against the reigning champions so long as they could keep the game close until the final two minutes for a chance to steal a win.
“The longer the series, the better for us. We just want to hang around. Once we have a chance, it’s all up to us,” said Guiao.
Rain or Shine lost its lone game against Talk `N Text in the eliminations, 79-83, but not after leading the Tropang Texters by as much as 14 points before losing steam in the end of their October 27 meeting.
Guiao also maintained his team isn’t the tallest team in the league, though their heavyweight frontline of Beau Belga, JR Quinahan and the vastly improved Jervy Cruz have contributed immensely in the team’s 51.17 rebounds per game average during their semifinals series against San Mig Coffee.
But the Rain or Shine mentor noted that even though his team emerged as the top rebounding team in the semis, the Elasto Painters still have to work on the offensive boards because the Tropang Texters have the height and the athleticism to dominate inside.