Proving a point
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2015 - 10:00am

There were several underlying stories that made the recent PBA Governors Cup Finals between San Miguel Beer and Alaska more intriguing than the clash for the title itself. Players were out on the court trying to prove their worth, hoping to display their wares on the last championship stage of the season.

Take, for instance, San Miguel’s Marcio Lassiter. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft behind Alaska’s Jvee Casio, Rain Or Shine’s Paul Lee and teammate Chris Lutz. Lassiter made a strong statement in the Finals, averaging 11.5 points while Casio managed only seven points a game. In the semifinals, Lassiter went berserk and scored 20.5 points a game against the Elasto Painters. Lee averaged 15.5 points.

San Miguel import Arizona Reid called Lassiter the best three-point shooter in the league. In a dream shootout between Lassiter and himself, Reid said he’d put his money on Super Marcio. It’s the reason why on executing the pick-and-roll with Alex Cabagnot, Reid said his first option wasn’t to score. “Alaska would trap Alex because he’s dangerous from outside so I’d roll without a switch,” he said. “But I wouldn’t look to score right away. I’ve got guys to pass to like JuneMar (Fajardo) at the post or Marcio waiting in the corners.” Late in Game 2 of the Finals, Reid came off two pick-and-roll plays to find Lassiter wide open for triples that settled the outcome.

Lutz started in Game 1 of the Finals and fired 12 points, his only double figure output in the conference. He wound up averaging 5.3 points in the title playoffs. Lutz took over Lassiter’s starting spot in the series opener. Lassiter came back to start the rest of the way.

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Reid also had something to prove. He’d won two Best Import awards with Rain Or Shine but never played on a title squad in four previous conferences. Reid was runner-up to Alaska’s Romeo Travis in the Best Import derby but wound up with a championship. In the Finals, Reid dominated Travis, averaging 35 points to 17. 

“I tried to play Travis physical,” said Reid. “During the eliminations, he killed us with 32 points and they won. We were on an eight-game winning streak then they beat us. I watched film of that game over and over again. I told myself I wouldn’t let that happen again. So in the Finals, I just made sure Travis wouldn’t get space to do that fadeaway. I studied all his moves.”

Reid said losing to Travis for the Best Import award was no big deal. “San Miguel gave me a plaque saying I’m the best import so that’s good enough for me,” he said. “More than any individual award, what’s important to me is winning the championship. We played under a lot of pressure because of the expectations. It was nothing personal. Rain Or Shine relinquished my rights and I thank them for giving me an opportunity to play for the San Miguel organization. I’m blessed.”

Even in the semifinals where San Miguel dueled with Rain Or Shine, Reid said there was nothing personal in his approach. “I really like coach Yeng (Guiao),” he said. “Coach Yeng is a great motivator. When he bumped me in one game during the semifinals, I didn’t mind it. It was coach Yeng’s way of saying hi, how have you been. He does an awesome job with Rain Or Shine.  I thought the series against Rain Or Shine was tougher than the Finals. I’m very grateful to Rain Or Shine for the chance to bring me over. In fact, when I first arrived in 2011, I was ready to sign a five-year contract. That’s how much I love playing in the PBA.”

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Another player out to prove something was San Miguel’s Jay-R Reyes who’d never seen action in a Finals before. Reyes and another San Miguel frontliner Gabby Espinas used to play for Alaska. Reyes played only in Game 1 of the Finals while Espinas logged quality minutes, especially in Game 3 where he scored six points and in the Game 4 clincher where he tallied eight. Espinas was on the Alaska squad that took the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup crown with head coach Luigi Trillo and assistant coach Alex Compton. Now, Compton is the Alaska head coach. 

By the way, San Miguel coach Leo Austria and Reyes were on the Welcoat expansion team in 2006-07. Reyes was one of three Welcoat direct picks. The two others were JunJun Cabatu and Jay Sagad. So in the Rain Or Shine semifinal series, Austria and Reyes were reacquainted with their original franchise.

On the Alaska side, there were five players with San Miguel links. Chris Banchero and Eric Menk played together on the San Miguel team that captured the ABL title in 2013. They were coached by Austria. Noy Baclao, Sam Eman and Dondon Hontiveros played for the San Miguel franchise in the PBA. Baclao was the first overall pick in the 2010 draft and played for Air 21, Petron, Meralco and Talk ‘N’ Text before moving to Alaska. Eman was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft behind Joe De Vance and played two years with the San Miguel franchise. Hontiveros saw action for San Miguel from 2002 to 2011, playing on championship teams in the 2005 and 2009 Fiesta Conferences. He was also on Alaska’s title team in 2013.

The only Aces with no PBA championship experience were Vic Manuel, Banchero, Rome de la Rosa, Chris Exciminiano and Travis. Reyes and Reid had their first taste of a championship in the Governors Cup.


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