Jonas Villanueva found some sort of vengeance Friday night.
Playing like a man on a mission, Villanueva emerged as the biggest difference for Barako Bull in pulling off a hard-earned 79-75 victory over his former team San Mig Coffee in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
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The 5-foot-11 playmaker, obtained in a blockbuster trade two weeks ago, tallied seven of his 16 points in the fourth while setting up the crucial plays down the stretch as the injury-riddled Energy Cola held off a stubborn Mixers crew, which played without food poisoning-stricken import Matt Rogers.
“It feels good,” was how Villanueva described the victory against the Mixers, whom he helped win the crown last season.
“I just have another chance to play and I just look (at the trade) as a blessing in disguise,” added the former Far Eastern University guard who added five assists.
Import Evan Brock utilized his 6-foot-9 frame to the hilt, collecting 18 markers, seven coming in the payoff period, plus 12 rebounds while guard Josh Urbiztondo, another former Mixer, added 17 points for the Energy Cola.
Former two-time league MVP James Yap sizzled with 11 points in the opening period but could only add another eight the rest of the way for the Mixers, who lost steam in the face of the Villanueva-orchestrated Energy Cola windup.
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The Energy Cola struggled to pounce on the import-less Coffee Mixers until a telling run 16-8 run–capped by a Villanueva bucket– midway in the third –for a big 54-44 cushion.
Flaunting the heart of a champion, the Coffee Mixers clawed their way back behind their local crew and even enjoyed a 64-62 lead off an unmolested PJ Simon lay-up with 6:51 left.
Then it was a seesaw battle from then on. A completed three-point play by Rafi Reavis off a Mark Macapagal foul put San Mig Coffee ahead 71-69, time down to just 1:58.
That, however, was the Mixers’ last hurrah as Brock clustered two straight buckets–the second off a nice handoff by Villanueva–for a 73-71 edge.
After Mark Barroca muffed a three-point shot, Villanueva made the Mixers pay, recognizing a wide-open Danny Seigle at the top of key for a back-breaking triple that stretched Barako’s lead to five with 30.4 ticks left.
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Villanueva and new San Mig Coffee guard Alex Mallari exchanged split free throws before Yap drilled in a quick-release trey that kept the Mixers’ slim hopes alive at 75-77 with 6.4 seconds to go.
Two made pressure-packed charities by Seigle iced the game for Barako Bull then Yap missed his last-gasp triple as time expired.
“It’s a very important win for us, to think that SMC is playing without an import,” stated Barako Bull consultant Rajko Toroman, who drew up the team’s last play.
“Our import is not impressive but he's an amazing guy who has a good attitude and a hard worker. He's very effective for us.”
Barako Bull also missed the services of five Energy Cola–Roger Yap, JC Intal, Sean Anthony, Celino Cruz and Eman Monfort–but Toroman noted “we won by defense and that's a great way to begin.”
THE 17-MAN GILAS POOL: