Texters going for another niche


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AFTER Talk N Text completed its epic climb to clinch a special niche in PBA annals, coach Chot Reyes just wants to “rest and forget basketball” for a while.

Don’t expect that respite to last too long as Reyes and the Tropang Texters set out to complete another franchise milestone in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that starts on Feb. 10.

No team has defended the Commissioner’s Cup title since Red Bull last pulled off the trick in 2002. The feat may not be as unique as the plateau TNT reached when it became the first Philippine Cup repeat champion in 27 years, but it would do just as fine.

“Prepare for the second conference,” Reyes said, baring his plans after his team’s projected brief break.

No matter the duration, it surely would be used by Reyes and his charges to savor their latest achievement, capped by a 110-101 victory over gritty Powerade last Sunday before a crowd of over 14,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The triumph enabled the Texters to wrap up the best-of-seven series 4-1, annex their third title in the last four conferences and fifth in all since joining the league in 1990 and duplicate what now-defunct Great Taste last pulled off in 1985.

For Reyes, it was his eighth title that put him alongside Jong Uichico at fourth in the all-time list of champion coaches. The legendary Baby Dalupan has 15, Tim Cone 13 and Norman Black 10. Reyes, however, has five All-Filipino crowns, just one behind Dalupan.

“Every championship has its distinct flavor,” said Reyes. “But the All-Filipino is different, and becoming the first back-to-back champion in 27 years, I’m out of words.”

The victory somehow made up for the Texters’ failure to complete a rare Grand Slam last year when it was foiled by Petron Blaze in the Fiesta. The last time the Triple Crown was achieved was in 1996 by Alaska.

“Masakit ‘yung pagkatalo namin sa Grand Slam pero ito naman ‘yung kapalit, back-to-back Philippine Cup championships,” said Reyes. “This took 27 years in the making. Mas matagal ‘yun kaysa huling Grand Slam. That makes it so special.”

Adding spice to the victory was the fact TNT clawed back from a 1-3 count to oust Petron in their race-to-four semifinals duel. Despite the seemingly impossible task, the Texters refused to quit, rallying to win that series and going on to win the first three games of the title duel.

“All we talked about was, ‘Let’s make the most of this opportunity because we’ll never know when we’ll be back (in the finals),’” related Reyes.

“I myself thought this one’s not for us when we fell down 1-3 in the semis. Pero iba talaga ang team na ito. I have to give it to them. The guys are so special,” he added.

A Texters sweep looked imminent, but the Tigers displayed the spunk of an eighth-seed wanting to complete a Cinderella finish by taking Game 4 via a 100-97 count.

Last Sunday, however, TNT would not be denied much longer, coming out with its best start in the duel to lead by as many as 24 points before holding off Powerade’s big fight-back in the fourth quarter.

“They just wouldn’t give up,” noted Reyes of the Tigers. “But neither did us.”

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