Monday, December 19, 2011

The one chance in hell: Powerade Tigers!

El Granada Photo by: Nuki Sabio, Editing by yours truly.

I have been supporting the Powerade Tigers since they were still known as Swift Mighty Meaties, but this game is the best I've ever seen them perform. And that is not an exaggeration.

Yes I have seen them all. Tony Harris' 105 point explosion, the 1995 near grandslam run, going at the bottom for the mid 90s, having a brief run at the battle for thirds in 98', languishing again in 99-2000 before finally capping off with semifinal appearances in 01' . The year after that, they were acquired by the SMC and won some titles, including one on Christmas day of 2002 and then went to mediocrity the later half of the decade.

A year and a half ago, the team was renamed as the Powerade Tigers. It was a though welcome for the new look squad. The team went to a bad stretch in the all Filipino cup, losing their last 7 games and extending their losing streak through the commissioner's cup (A total of five months). A heartbreaking missed buzzer beater against Gilas ended the Tiger's chance for a playoff in the commissioner's cup. The Tigers performed well in the governor's cup, but was ousted due to quotient.

Watching last year's Powerade Tigers was tough. Watching them live was even tougher.

I remember rushing in if they are slated in the first game of a doubleheader, going to the Big Dome's restroom to change and wear my Powerade Jersey as I enter the lower box and cheer for them the whole game duration only to come up short, ending in a sorry loss. While exiting the halls of Araneta,  I remove the jersey and change back regular clothing to avoid ridicule and confrontation. Some PBA fans are tough, overly emotional and sometimes, can be tactless and rowdy.And yes, most of the games I watched then were losses.

Luckily, the team was able to get a set of fangs in the draft. with Marcio Lasiter and JV Casio, Powerade fans were jubilant. Then again, outside the Powerade fandom, no one gave this team a chance. Season previews placed the team in 7th or 8th. As the season started, the team was at .500 at best. With their top prized #1 pick and top play maker out for the first few games,  they struggled the rest of the games, but recovered in the last 4 to cement their mark at the 8th spot.

Come Playoff time they are now placed against B-Meg Llamados. No one outside of the "Katigre Pack" gave them a chance. Some "Experts" even made insulting and demoralizing statements towards the team. The Llamados were on an 8 game roll, but the Tigers were also on a "Mini Momentum" of their own, winning 4 of their last 5.The first game caught the Llamados off guard via a big win.

The real story of this underdog upset was Game 2, particularly the third quarter.With Casio down due a sprained ankle and Celino Cruz being ejected off a scuffle. Powerade was down big, their 2 point guards out within a 10 second span. But the mark of a true hero is when your back is against the wall, then the stars shine the brightest. Gary David played like a man possessed firing three after three, burning the net with ease. And the rest as they say, was history.

One can say there are other better performances in the league's rich history, actually there are a lot. But this story, from the frustrating buildup, down to the game 2's dire circumstances made this extra special.

El Granada was one of those stars who was always at the back, the one who always gets the short end of the stick. Kinda reminds me of today's Monta Ellis or a Pre-Big 3 Paul Pierce. Always snubbed, looked down and ridiculed for being a great player in a weak team. But once given the chance, would let all of the years of built up frustration out. That was him last night, playing like a man possessed. Other team's fans may find this reaction arrogant and wild, but those guys have probably supported teams that were always on top. Sometimes, looking from outside in, tells you the true value and importance of a victory.

Don't get me wrong, B-Meg is my (far) second favorite team in the league and I know they've prepared and played their hearts out. Calling this a fluke, or overconfidence for B-Meg is a joke.

So after this epic win, what now?

Most underdog stories end their Cinderella run after beating the strongest foe in the tournament, sometimes they go further but they just run out of gas. History has shown that. Shell blew out Ginebra in 99' after they defeated Mobiline. The 2011 Memphis Grizzlies ran out of gas with a 7 game series against the Thunder.  The 2007 Warriors was defeated by the Jazz in 5, same with the 94' Nuggets and 99' Knicks. Heck, even television and movie stories don't help, Shohoku was blown out of inter high contention by Aiwa after giving it their all in beating the national champions Sannoh.

But every team is different. If there's one team that can do that, it is the Tigers. This team is made to change history. I'm not guaranteeing a win or a loss in the next series (that was a moral lesson we learned from a certain "Someone") What I can say is that, when the tigers smell blood, they will fight to the end.


Yes, There is a chance in hell.

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