Starting hard and finishing even harder, B-Meg last night took the full measure of Talk ‘N Text and pounded out an 88-82 victory for the head start in their best-of-seven series for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
After blowing a 14-point first quarter lead to trail by as many as five entering the fourth, the Llamados held the Tropang Texters’ baskets to trickles when it mattered to hammer out the win before more than 13,000 animated fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
While the B-Meg defense collectively shackled Talk ‘N Text’s guns in the final frame, Peter June Simon and Denzel Bowles stood out offensively in separate stages to carry the Llamados home.
Simon, who has been second fiddle to James Yap practically his whole career, scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth and Bowles had six critical points in the stretch as the Llamados kept the defending champions at bay.
“We hunkered down defensively and were able to make some stops,” B-Meg coach Tim Cone told reporters later.
Talk ‘N Text took a 67-62 lead into the last period but was held to just two free throws for more than seven minutes while Simon was wreaking havoc on the other end by eating up all defenses thrown at him.
Posting Jimmy Alapag almost at will, Simon connected the baskets that injected life back into the Llamados, with his last basket, a towering one-handed jumper over the 5-foot-7 reigning MVP, giving B-Meg a 76-69 lead with 5:52 left.
“PJ got us back in the game, only he got into foul trouble. He would have played the whole of the second half but he got into foul trouble,” Cone said of Simon.
Still, Cone wasn’t that satisfied with the way his squad played, knowing that Talk ‘N Text wasn’t just able to finish the job after catching the Llamados cold in the third period.
“I thought we played well the first, second and fourth (periods) and that’s not a good recipe. We battled through the hard time in the third,” he said. “(But) you can’t give Talk ‘N Text a quarter because they can blow you out in that span.”
“Two words: free throws. You can’t win a game if you miss 20 free throws,” Talk ‘N Text’s Chot Reyes said. “These guys have been playing basketball since they started wearing short pants. I can’t help them there, I can’t shoot free throws for them.
“We just have to put the ball in the hoop and in this game, we couldn’t,” Reyes added. “Credit to B-Meg, they wanted this game more.”
Close to 70 percent or 46 of the 66 teams that won Game 1 of the finals have gone on to win the series. Game 2 is scheduled tomorrow.
“They were not hitting the shots like they normally do,” Cone said of the Texters. “To win back-to-back games (in the championship series) takes special effort.”
Bowles, the leading Best Import candidate, finished with 25 points, the same total that his TNT counterpart, Donnell Harvey, had.
But Talk ‘N Text got just five points each from Ranidel de Ocampo and Jason Castro.
B-MEG 88—Bowles 25, Simon 18, Devance 11, Pingris 11, Yap 9, Barroca 4, Intal 3, Reavis 3, Urbiztondo 2, De Ocampo 2, Villanueva 0.
TALK N’ TEXT 82—Harvey 25, Alapag 12, Reyes 10, Fonacier 8, Williams 6, Dillinger 5, Castro 5, De Ocampo 5, Carey 4, Peek 2, Gamalinda 0, Aguilar 0.
Quarters: 25-14, 48-40, 62-67, 88-82