Final 4 miracle, attack on Ali Peek fired up Texters
MANILA, Philippines—There was some point in the PBA Philippine Cup when coach Chot Reyes thought that his Tropang Texters were not good enough.
That was when they went 1-3 down to arch-rival Petron Blaze in the Final Four.
“I thought, maybe this isn’t for us,” said Reyes, who did away with his usual, multicolored top for a championship shirt.
“But the players simply wouldn’t allow it. [And] when we did make it back, I felt that it was a sure sign [that we could go all the way].”
Reyes won his eighth league championship as a coach—including his fifth all-Filipino—and made the Texters the first team to repeat as champion of the tournament in 27 years.
The victory, he admitted, took some of the sting out of Talk ‘N Text’s failure to complete the league Grand Slam last year.
“Failing to win the Grand Slam was painful,” Reyes said inside the press room. “We came within two quarters of winning it all. But this championship makes it a lot sweeter. There hasn’t been a repeat champion in 27 years, and that’s longer than the last Grand Slam.”
Reyes said his crew came together when a bullet almost felled Ali Peek in November last year, and the entire squad rallied behind its veteran center. It was the turning point, he said.
“All of them were crying at the sight of Ali back then [in the hospital room],” he said. “I thought I would never see this team come together again if not for that moment.”
Talk ‘N Text closed out Powerade in five games of their best-of-seven series on Sunday, and Reyes, despite winning his third championship in the last four conferences, was quick to dispel notions of a dynasty taking shape.
“I’d like to call it sustained excellence,” Reyes said.
Game 1 of the Finals looked like the Tigers were overmatched, until the injured JV Casio returned in the next two and made it close.
Powerade managed to squeeze in one game, but it was doubtful that the Tigers could sustain such a difficult climb against a talent-laden team like Talk ‘N Text.
The final series score didn’t reflect how close the title playoff was, as Powerade fought doggedly to make it a respectable one. But no one remembers the losers.
And people will remember this Talk ‘N Text squad not only for its championship series conquest, but in the series before that, when Reyes made his superstars play their hearts out and rally from what seemed like impossible odds.