MANILA---Booed all game long by a loud crowd, Alex Cabagnot took the ball in his hands with the game on the line and had the last laugh.
The energetic playmaker banked a basket with 1.7 ticks remaining and lifted the Beermen to a pulsating 86-84 victory over the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings last night in Game One of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series at the Araneta Coliseum.
It was the third game-winner this conference by the starting San Miguel Beer pointguard, who told reporters later that he got a big lift from the guy who used to own his starting spot—veteran Olsen Racela, who will soon be an assistant coach with the Beermen.
“Coach [Racela] told me that it’s just going to be me and my defender and he really gave me the confidence to take the last shot,” said Cabagnot. “The whole team just pretty much gave me the confidence to make the play.”
Earlier in the night, reigning MVP James Yap finally won a game for Derbay Ace with defense, botching up Talk ‘N Text’s last play with a huge steal that sealed an 88-87 victory that squared that half of the Final Four.
San Miguel Beer’s victory, meanwhile, gave the Beermen a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and they also forged it the hard way: San Miguel blew an 11-point lead in the fourth period before leaning on clutch plays from Cabagnot and a botched play between Ginebra veterans Rudy Hatfield and Mark Caguioa.
Cabagnot first tied the game on a jumper, 84-all, before Hatfield loaded up too much on a short pass intended for Caguioa that sailed past the head of the Kings spitfire.
Cabagnot then got the ball off a timeout and dribbled time away before launching a shot off Hatfield that kissed the glass softly and dropped into the net.
“It was like a replay,” said San Miguel Beer coach Ato Agustin.
Cabagnot had a couple of game-winners just four games apart in the elimination round, sinking a floater with three-tenths of a second left in a 99-97 victory over Alaska last Oct. 27 and then following it up with a reverse with one-tenths of a second remaining that gave San Miguel an 85-83 triumph over Derby Ace.
Last night, though, with his offense slowed by a cough that made it difficult for him to breathe, Yap came up with a defensive gem aided by Talk ‘ N Text’s failure to burn a timeout in the dying seconds.
“If I can’t score, I’ll find a way to contribute defensively,” said Yap in Filipino after scoring just 13 points in 31 minutes. “If I can’t score, I would find way to contribute defensively.”
Peter June Simon took up the cudgels, as usual, for Yap, finishing with 28 points after missing just six of 15 attempts. Simon had nine of his total in the final period.
“We knew James was under the weather,” Simon said, also in Filipino. “So we had to step up in his place.”
Yap didn’t practice the last two days for the Llamados as he got little sleep because of his breathing difficulties. Rico Maierhofer, who had 14 points, also missed the last three practices after suffering an eye infection caused by gun powder during the New Year revelry.
The defending champion Llamados actually built a 15-point lead in the third quarter and were ahead by as many as six heading into the final two minutes only to sputter in the endgame and almost lose it all.
Kelly Williams scored the Tropang Texters’ final six points, the last two on a two-handed flush off a brilliant alley-oop pass by Ranidel De Ocampo for what turned out to be the final score with 37.4 seconds remaining.
In the next play, Simon missed a jumper after milking the clock for the Llamados.
Ryan Reyes, who finished with 14 points for the Texters, retrieved a long outlet pass by Larry Fonacier and instead of calling a timeout gave the ball to Jimmy Alapag.
When Alapag decided to pass off to Reyes, Yap intercepted the entry pass to doom the Texters.
“If we can’t manage to call a timeout or get a decent shot [with] 10 [seconds] left and [five] top caliber players on the floor, then we don’t deserve to win,” coach Chot Reyes posted on his Twitter account.
Santos Top Performer
Meanwhile, San Miguel’s Arwind Santos received his plaque as the Rain or Shine-PBA Press Corps Philippine Cup Elims/Quarters Top Performer before the start of last night’s second game pitting the Beermen against Barangay Ginebra.
Santos, who joined 2009 winner Ranidel de Ocampo of Talk ’N Text as a recipient of the award which fetes the All-Filipino Conference’s best performer prior to the semifinals, averaged a league-best 34.7 statistical points during the classification phase, averaging 16.6 points and 9.1 boards through 15 games. With a report from Mark Giongco, Inquirer.net
DERBY ACE 88—Simon 28, Maierhofer 14, Canaleta 13, Yap J. 13, Pingris 10, Gaco 4, Yap R. 4, Salvador 2, Timberlake 0, Villanueva 0, Allado 0.
TALK ‘N TEXT 87—Alapag 18, Williams 17, Reyes 14, Castro 11, Peek 9, De Ocampo 7, Aban 5, Carey 4, Dillinger 2, Yee 0, Fonacier 0.
Quarters: 13-15, 43-32, 64-59, 88-87.
SAN MIGUEL BEER 86—Washington 19, Cabagnot 15, Salvacion 11, Santos 10, Hontiveros 10, Seigle 6, Pena 6, Ildefonso 4, Racela 3, Artadi 2, Yeo 0, Miranda 0.
BRGY. GINEBRA 84—Caguioa 16, Miller 15, Villanueva 13, Intal 10, De Ocampo 8, Cortez 7, Helterbrand 6, Wilson 4, Tubid 3, Hatfield 2, Mamaril 0.
Quarters: 21-22, 43-43, 73-63, 86-84.