Jonas Villanueva played just 13 minutes last night, didn’t get off a shot and had just two rebounds and two assists.
But he still earned the ultimate praise from coach Tim Cone.
“I think the only good thing I did as a coach tonight was put Jonas in the game,” Cone said moments after an 86-76 victory by B-Meg over Meralco that shoved the Llamados into the Final Four of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum,
“That was the deciding factor,” Cone added. “It was a real team thing, but it really came down to Jonas.”
Villanueva put the cuffs on Meralco ace Solomon Mercado when needed and the Llamados collectively held the B-Boys without a field goal for more than 10 minutes in the most crucial times of the fourth quarter to oust Meralco and earn a semifinal slot opposite sister team Barangay Ginebra.
Gabriel Freeman was one bundle of Energy that Alaska simply couldn’t stop earlier as the feisty import scored 34 points and had 19 rebounds after shaking off jetlag as Barako Bull eliminated Alaska, 106-85, in another playoff.
Freeman anchored a swashbuckling Barako Bull finish in the first half as the Energy broke away from what had been a tight game to take a 13-point intermission lead that that Aces spent the last two periods trying to overcome in vain.
Barako Bull advanced to a best-of-five showdown with defending champion Talk ‘N Text starting tomorrow at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The B-Meg-Ginebra semifinal series will start Wednesday also at Ynares.
Mercado had scored 13 of his 27 points in the third quarter to keep the B-Boys afloat before more than 12,000 fans before Villanueva silenced him in the fourth with a sterling defensive effort.
“We were having problems with Mercado,” Cone said. “And Jonas defended well against Mercado. That was the key.”
The B-Boys missed 16 straight field goal attempts during that drought and faded out of the fight, as Mercado was able to snap the team out of it with only 15.9 seconds left, a meaningless layup that rounded out scoring.
Before that, the B-Boys last scored with 10:58 remaining.
The Final Four match-up between the two teams will happen for the first time in an import-flavored tournament. They met twice before in all-Filipino conferences with both teams winning one each.
Denzel Bowles was also big for Cone, shooting 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, including a string of five straight that made it 82-74 heading into the final two minutes.
PJ Simon had 16 coming off the bench and Joe Devance 15 for the Llamados.
Earl Barron was responsible for seven of those 16 misses, taking wild shots when the Llamados were scooting away, even as Mac Cardona scored just two points in 31 minutes after injuring his right knee in the third.
BARAKO 106—Freeman 34, Tubid 20, Miller 20, Seigle 12, Najorda 10, Pennisi 3, Arboleda 3, Allado 2, Pena 2, Salvador 0.
ALASKA 85—Parada 18, Baguio 14, Reyes 13, Baracael 12, Custodio 9, Tenorio 9, Thoss 6, Eman 2, Gonzales 2, Salamat 0, Gelig 0.
Quarters: 25-24, 55-42, 78-63, 106-85
B-MEG 86—Bowles 28, Simon 16, Devance 15, Yap 9, Barroca 6, Pingris 6, Intal 2, Reavis 2, De Ocampo 2, Urbiztondo 0, Villanueva 0.
MERALCO 76—Mercado 27, Barron 23, Hugnatan 10, Ross 9, Macapagal 3, Cardona 2, Taulava 2, Borboran 0, Artadi 0.
Quarters: 21-23, 42-40, 61-67, 86-76