TIM CONE asked his boys to give him something special last night and, surely enough, the champion team got what he wanted from his talented B-Meg squad.
“I told the players (before the game) today that it takes a special effort to go 2-0 up,” Cone said proudly after his Llamados withstood a hard-finishing Barangay Ginebra side, 83-77, to move within another victory of barging into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
“There were times that I thought we were losing it,” he continued. “But this team has toughened up mentally. I just felt we put up a special effort tonight.”
Special it certainly was as the Llamados held the Kings scoreless for all but the final 1.3 seconds of the last 2:49 to break free from a 75-all game and carve out the win before close to 12,000 boisterous Smart Araneta Coliseum fans.
Peter June Simon, oft-labelled as James Yap’s chief back-up who has won numerous games for the Llamados, scored the last eight points in the final 2:02 as B-Meg guns for a win tomorrow that would seal the 23rd title series stint of the franchise.
Defending champion Talk ‘N Text, meanwhile, shoots for a second straight win and a 2-1 lead over Barako Bull when their series resumes today at 7:10 p.m. also at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.
Simon finished with 15 points in just 28 minutes, and import Denzel Bowles led the team asexpected with 21 markers, 15 boards and five assists to completely outduel Ginebra counterpart Jackson Vroman for the second straight game.
And history certainly favors B-Meg, with 36 of the 39 teams to ever have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series going on to win. The Llamados take the first of three cracks they have tomorrow at 6 p.m.
“Obviously, we will go for it,” Cone, the 13-time champion coach who moved within a win of a 24th title series stint, said of the potential clincher tomorrow. “But it would be a special effort times two, knowing the character of Ginebra.”
The game, as in the series-opener, was a defensive struggle, with both squads being held to dry spells.
B-Meg had its drought—3:02 to be exact—in the fourth period as the Kings rallied from a 68-75 deficit to forge that 75-all tie.
Niño Canaleta hit three straight free throws off a Bowles foul with 2:49 left before Ginebra took its turn on being starved by the B-Meg defense.
Vroman, a certified hard-worker who is suffering a nightmarish series offensively, struggled to put up 10 markers that went with 11 boards and four blocks.
B-MEG 83—Bowles 21, Yap 16, Simon 15, Urbiztondo 12, Pingris 12, Intal 3, Devance 2, Reavis 2, Barroca 0, Burtscher 0, Villanueva 0, De Ocampo 0.
GINEBRA 77—Canaleta 19, Cortez 17, Vroman 10, Helterbrand 8, Hatfield 8, Ababou 6, Raymundo 5, Wilson J. 3, Wilson W. 1, Labagala 0, Mamaril 0.
Quarters: 23-19, 37-41, 63-59, 83-77