B-Meg survives Ginebra on Simon's follow-up

(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
6:00 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs. B-Meg
(Game 1, best-of-seven finals)
With their finals hopes hanging in the balance, B-Meg coach Tim Cone summed it all up: It was all about making big stops and big shots.

And it was gutsy Peter June Simon who made the biggest shot Friday night.

Finding himself in the right place and at the right time, Simon banked in the game-winning putback with 2.5 seconds left to help the Llamados escape with a thrilling 74-72 victory over stubborn Barangay Ginebra Kings and earn a trip to the finals of the PBA Governors Cup at the packed Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Do-it-all import Marqus Blakely finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks, and four assists while James Yap added 16 markers, but it was the game-clinching basket by Simon that enabled the Llamados to hang on and forge a mouth-watering clash with Rain or Shine in a best-of-seven finals showdown starting on Sunday.

“We won by the skin of our teeth,” noted Cone, who already has 14 titles under his belt, with the latest courtesy of their 4-3 series win over Talk ‘N Text for the Commissioners Cup crown just two months ago. “This felt like a Game 7 against Ginebra.”

It sure did.

“It was just pure luck. PJ was at the right place and at the right time. It was all about making big stops and big shots. It’s gratifying when you worked that hard to win. It makes the win a lot sweeter,” added Cone, who is set to make his 25th finals appearance since his coaching debut in 1989 with Alaska.

With the score knotted at 72-apiece with just 16.9 seconds left, Blakely opted for an isolation against counterpart Cedric Bozeman then released a step-back jumper that clanged off the rim.
But Simon, despite his 6-foot-1 frame, outrebounded the taller Rico Maierhofer for the leather and quickly banked it in for a 74-72 lead time down to just 2.5 ticks.

Off a timeout, Bozeman inbounded the leather to Kerby Raymundo, who fired a three-point attempt against Marc Pingris that was way off the mark as time expired, sending the relatively pro-Ginebra crowd of 14,068 to tears.

“When I saw that jump shot go up, I knew we were going to overtime. Thankfully, the three-point (attempts) by Kerby didn’t go in,” stated Cone.

Tasked to also contain Ginebra ace Mark Caguioa, Simon still managed to finish with 11 points and five rebounds but the Makilala, Cotabato native surely made his presence felt when the Llamados needed him most.

“Nakita ko ‘yung tira ni Blakely na parang magmimintis so wala na akong naisip kung hindi i-follow-up yung tira,” said Simon, dubbed the “Scoring Apostle.”

“Do-or-die game na ‘to kaya ‘pag may opportunity, gawin mo na ang dapat mong gawin.”

Bozeman led all scorers with 27 points but shied away in two potential game-changing plays for Ginebra, wisely milking the clock until the final seconds on their shot-clock, only to dish out the leather to Raymundo, who came up unsuccessful in both tries.

Raymundo, who sank a dagger of a trey en route to their 73-71 win over the Texters last Wednesday, failed to repeat his trick and finished with just seven points.

Caguioa added 14 markers but could only muster two in the payoff period while KG Canaleta came off the bench and finished with nine markers, including a huge trey that forged the game’s final deadlock at 72-all with just 1:57 left.

But in the end, it was Cone and the Llamados who will still continue their journey in the season-ending conference, this time against the Elasto Painters.

“Admittedly they’re a tough matchup for us,” Cone noted of Rain or Shine.

“(Import Jamelle) Cornley is a tough matchup for us. We’re gonna need big games from our guards and we gotta be creative and figure out mismatches. I think over seven games we’re gonna figure them out.”
The scores:
B-MEG 74 - Blakely 22, Yap 16, Simon 11, De Ocampo 8, Pingris 7, Barroca 5, Urbiztondo 3, Reavis 2, Villanueva 0.
GINEBRA 72 - Bozeman 27, Caguioa 14, Canaleta 9, Raymundo 7, Hatfield 6, Villanueva 3, Ababou 2, W. Wilson 2, Helterbrand 2, Maierhofer 0, Mamaril 0, Cortez 0.

Quarters: 23-19, 41-36, 58-57, 74-72.


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