Alaska Aces too good for Meralco

Updated 14 December 2012
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Alaska Aces too good for Meralco

Alaska now has something to brag about in the post-Tim Cone era.
With a solid game to back up their hunger, the Aces tore Meralco to shreds, 88-70, at the Araneta Coliseum last night to sweep the fatigued Bolts and make the PBA Philippine Cup’s Final Four – the Aces’ first semifinal stint since their long-time coach left two seasons ago.
The Aces opened up with a 20-5 lead and never looked back, playing with complete command with super rookie Calvin Abueva inspiring the squad on both ends and the ever-reliable Cyrus Baguio always there to bail Alaska out of trouble.
Abueva finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, getting to play 33 minutes this time after staying away from foul trouble, and the result was a puzzle the Bolts never got to solve all night.
Baguio, meanwhile, played without much fanfare, stoic all night but razor-sharp in hurting the Bolts.
The sky walking former Santo Tomas ace in the UAAP shared scoring honors with Abueva as Alaska will make a Final Four appearance for the first time since the Aces won the 2010 Fiesta Conference with an import named Diamon Simpson.
Alaska has never gone this far in a tournament ever since that championship run and after Cone left a season later to coach B-Meg, now San Mig Coffee.
With their 2-0 victory in the best-of-three series, the Aces advanced to face No. 1 Talk ‘N Text in a race-to-four affair starting Thursday, with Alaska having the confidence against the defending champions after being just one of two teams to beat them in the eliminations.
“I don’t want to take anything away from us, but Meralco was a tired team out there,” Alaska coach Luigi Trillo told reporters.
For the young coach, steering the team this deep in the conference is also a personal milestone, having won just three games in his first tournament with Alaska last season.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” continued Trillo, who took over from Joel Banal two weeks before the Governors’ Cup last season. “If you’re facing a coaching staff like (what) Meralco (has), I never expected that it would be like this.”
San Mig was the No. 2 squad in the eliminations and went through the wringer in repulsing Petron Blaze on Thursday to make the Final Four. The Mixers will still have to await their foes after Barangay Ginebra took its best-of-three series with Rain or Shine to the distance.
The Gin Kings came alive in the third period and had just enough left to hold off the Elasto Painters in the stretch for a 79-77 win that leveled their series at 1-all.
Rudy Hatfield came off the bench to fuel that spirited second half effort by the Kings, who trailed by twin digits in the second quarter.
Hatfield, at 35 one of the oldest players in the league, finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and the steal of the night which prevented the Painters from taking the potential game-tying attempt.
The 6-foot-4 workhorse picked Gabe Norwood’s inbound pass to Jervy Cruz with 2.4 seconds remaining, igniting a wild celebration in the stands and giving the Kings a new lease on life.
Rookie Chris Ellis led the Kings with 18 points and a career-high 10 rebounds and Mark Caguioa had 17. Paul Lee, in just his third game with the Painters after coming back from a shoulder operation, had 19 points and led all Rain or Shine shooters.
But the Painters will come into the KO game on Sunday as still the favorites after they almost pulled Game 2 out of the fire despite not being at their best.
Only Jeff Chan was able to finish in twin digits for the Painters with 12 as the Painters shot just over 33% from the floor, including just 9-of-33 from beyond three-point range.
“We have achieved anything yet,” Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen said. “We have to go out and play our best on Sunday because Rain or Shine is a very tough team.”


IPL final will pitch batting might of Chennai against bowling mastery of Sunrisers

Updated 26 May 2018
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IPL final will pitch batting might of Chennai against bowling mastery of Sunrisers

  • Seven-times finalists Chennai go up against 2016 winners
  • Chennai have beaten Sunrisers three times already this season

On paper, the Indian Premier League (IPL) final on Sunday evening is a clash between the batting prowess of Chennai Super Kings, who will be contesting their seventh final, and the bowling might of Sunrisers Hyderabad, winners back in 2016.

At first glance, the stats would bear that out too. Four Chennai players — Ambati Rayudu (586), MS Dhoni (455), Shane Watson (438) and Suresh Raina (413) — have topped 400 runs for the season. And while Kane Williamson, Hyderabad’s captain, sits atop the run charts with 688, only Shikhar Dhawan (471) among his teammates has crossed 300.
On the bowling side, Hyderbad’s Rashid Khan and Siddharth Kaul both have 21 wickets, while Shakib Al-Hasan has 14. Not one of them has gone for more than eight runs an over. Chennai’s leading wicket-takers, Shardul Thakur (15) and Dwayne Bravo (13) have both conceded more than nine an over.
Such numbers, however, don’t really tell you how things have gone at the business end of the tournament. Chennai’s campaign has been invigorated by the inclusion of South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi, who had left for home earlier in the competition after the death of his father. He has 10 wickets from six games at a stellar economy rate of 5.9. The new-ball pairing with Deepak Chahar, who can swing it at decent pace, has transformed the team’s fortunes.
Hyderabad have lost four of their last five, and reached the final only after a monumental implosion from Kolkata Knight Riders in front of their home crowd. And it wasn’t a team effort either, with Rashid’s brilliance — 34 off 10 balls, 3 for 19, two catches and one run-out — dragging an underperforming side past the finish line.
Chennai have won all three of their meetings this season, though each game has gone to the wire. After being taken for 49 in the first game between the two sides, Rashid has returned figures of 0 for 25 and 2 for 11. It goes without saying that his intervention will be crucial if Hyderabad are to win a second title.
Chennai lead 8-2 in the head-to-head stakes, and have six players in their likely starting XI who have won the title before. But you have to go all the way back to 2011 for Chennai’s last success, and four losses in the final suggest that they are susceptible to big-match pressure. For that pressure to be felt, Hyderabad need runs. Williamson and Dhawan have scored at a decent clip when they’ve got starts, but there’s been a noticeable lack of oomph in the middle order. Manish Pandey has been dropped after a dreadful season, and Yusuf Pathan seems a shadow of the player who once bullied bowlers. Shakib, too, has failed to play an innings of substance.
It will also be interesting to see who Hyderabad pick for their playing XI. The decision to bench the steady Sandeep Sharma — 11 wickets at an economy rate of 7.02 — in favor of Khaleel Ahmed backfired spectacularly, as he was taken for 38 in three overs. Carlos Brathwaite held his nerve against Kolkata, but Chennai will doubtless target his medium pace after Faf du Plessis took him apart in the first qualifier.
Chennai will likely keep faith in du Plessis. Sam Billings, who he replaced for the first knockout game, started the season with a dazzling 23-ball 56, but has not been able to kick on from that. When Chennai plumped for a squad high on experience but relatively low on youthful vigour, there were more than a few skeptics. This run to the final, Dhoni’s eighth as captain (one of them was with Pune), has changed many of those minds, but the biggest hurdle remains to be crossed.
For Chennai, the IPL final has often been as hard to surmount as Becher’s Brook is for many horses at the Grand National.