On January 29, 2012, or 11 years ago this week, two-way guard Ryan Reyes of Talk ‘N Text broke the previous record of 9 steals in one game held by SMB’s Olsen Racela. Reyes, a 7x PBA champion, swiped 10 times on a historic night as TNT went on to win the 2011-12 Philippine Cup Best of 7 Finals, 4-1, against the Powerade Tigers.
Reyes was spectacular in that game-clinching 110-101 win, as he finished with a team-high 20 points and 8 rebounds aside from setting the all-time league and Finals record. It was Reyes’ best game in the series as five other TNT players scored in double digits. Gary David led the Tigers with 37 points but couldn’t bring the Tigers back after trailing by 14 at the end of the first quarter.
The Rivalry takes a look back to this record-breaking feat by The Energizer on this week’s Throwback Thursday feature.
Preparing for Game 5
In a phone interview, Reyes told The Rivalry that he was bubbling with confidence even before the start of the game. “I had that confidence coming from the gym to the bench because we were deadset on finishing the series. I was really hyped up and ready to play from the jump. We were all saying – we got this.”
The magnitude of the game didn’t put pressure on the battle-scarred Reyes. Having previously won three championships prior to this series, the 2008 Rookie of the Year was happy with the way he played in Game 5. “I played with a lot of fun and heart – this, despite having to defend against the likes of Gary (David), JVee (Casio) and Marcio (Lassiter) – it was my job to limit them. I was just focused and tried to anticipate the plays and the passes.”
“I remember most of my steals were from interceptions by stepping into the passing lanes. As a defender, I take pride by knowing how my opponents play, finding their sweet spots, getting into the angles while finding the shortest cut to the ball,” he added. “It wasn’t like I dominated one particular player from Powerade, I think I made those steals from different situations.”
“We stepped into the series with the mindset that we can defend our championship. Powerade was a very good team but we felt we had enough materials in our lineup to beat them. It was just a matter of setting the right mindset every game to get things done.” The Tigers also had the likes of Sean Anthony, Romel Adducul, Doug Kramer, Alex Crisano, Rudy Lingganay and Josh Vanlandingham. TNT, on the other hand, had Larry Fonacier, later adjudged Finals MVP, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Ali Peek, Kelly Williams, Harvey Carey and Jared Dillinger.
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TNT defends Philippine Cup
It was a special moment for the MVP flagship franchise after suffering a painful loss to Petron in seven games in the Governors’ Cup. The loss meant TNT blowing its chance to become only the fifth team and fourth franchise to win the elusive grand slam title.
TNT coach Chot Reyes, in the post-game interview, described it as “a redemption after losing the grand slam last season.” The Philippine Cup, the team’s second in a row and third in four years, also meant TNT becoming only the third team after Crispa and Great Taste to successfully defend the All-Filipino championship.
Being with Chot
The 6’2 defensive sentinel explained that ever since he was playing, he already established a defensive mindset. “I always psyched myself every game, even more this one being a possible title-clinching one. I understand that I need to play my role as a defender, which means I have to prepare myself before the game and study the players I’ll be guarding. You can’t be a good defender if you’re not diligent enough to review the moves of the opposing players. We know we can’t stop Gary from scoring, but if we can only limit him, we’re good with that.”
It also helped that Reyes has been with his coach for two seasons already. Describing TNT’s offense as free-flowing because of the dribble-drive setup, the defensive whiz noted how familiar they were already with the offensive patterns. “We can work out the plays in our sleep, that’s how comfortable we were already with our offense. It was like automatic for all of us already. But I also believe that it’s defense that wins championships.”
Asked if he put a premium on his defensive skills to gain more playing time, Reyes was quick to respond, “You know, the great thing about this team is that nobody complained about floor burn. We were just happy and proud with everyone. I remember there was even a time when TNT would win games in a series and there would be like a different set of Best Player of the Game winners. It was total team effort and no one felt bad about not getting playing time.”
He also felt having Coach Reyes by his side helped him a lot. “Chot’s a great motivator, he just finds way to bring out the competitiveness of the players. You cannot imagine the eagerness on our part to die in the court to win the game.” Whether he was ever affected by his “in your face” style, the Cal-State Fullerton product chuckled and said, “Not at all, I actually enjoy seeing Chot do this because I’m used to this style while in the States. The thing with Chot is that there’s nothing personal with what he does, even when we get into verbal tussles, for us, it’s just two guys who want to win.”
Three most difficult players to defend
When asked who he had the most difficulty defending against, Reyes mentioned Willie Miller as one. “Willie’s just a great guy, you’d think he’s slow and won’t be able to do what he’s capable of doing, then all of a sudden, he does it. Then he taps you at the back and flashes a smile as if saying ‘I got you!’ Another one in his list would be teammate Mikey Williams. “When Mikey crosses over, goodbye. He’d go by me. And even if I keep in step, he then would shoot over me. Just a pure offensive machine.” Lastly, he cited James Yap. “Tons of moves, you don’t know where he’s going, and he’s deadly accurate from anywhere. It was hard to keep in step with him.” Asked if he saw Yap’s return in last Sunday’s ROS game versus Meralco, Reyes replied in the affirmative and was happy for his successful comeback. “You know us senior guys, we cheer for each other.”
Curiously, Reyes had no inkling he had already broken the all-time record after the game. “I don’t recall who told me first – I’m not sure if it were the utility guys of the team or Rich Alvarez – Rich knows everything. It didn’t also quite sink in right away, especially since we just won a championship. But I guess achieving this milestone was sweet.”
Not too many players have established league records for themselves. Prior to Racela’s nine-steal feat, only three other players had recorded 8 steals in one game. Johnny Abarrientos accomplished this twice, the first one with Alaska in 2001 and the second with Coke in 2004. Willie Generalao accomplished this feat as well in 1980 in his rookie year with Gilbey’s Gin. But the first to hold this record was Filmanank’s steady point guard, Orly Delos Santos, a 5’8 dynamo who accomplished this feat versus U/Tex in a 1978 game.
Yet, what made Reyes’ record more impressive was that it was done on championship night. At the same time, he ended up as the team’s top offensive contributor, a testament to him being one of the greatest two-way players in PBA history. Ryan Reyes’ feat may take some time before it is replicated or surpassed.