James Yap is the Finals MVP. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – San Mig Coffee guard James Yap could only count his blessings after he helped the Mixers win Game 5 of the PBA Governors Cup Finals against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Yap lived up to his "Big Game James" moniker as he hit clutch jumpers, and finished with a conference high 29 points in San Mig's 92-89 victory – which allowed them to complete their coveted Grand Slam.
He was later named Finals MVP, his second consecutive award after also garnering the honor in the Commissioner's Cup.
"Sobrang blessed lang talaga," Yap told reporters after the game. "Sobrang blessed lang and siyempre, hindi lang naman ako. Nagtrabaho kami lahat."
"So sobrang blessed lang ako kasi nagkaroon ako ng coach like Coach Tim (Cone), and sobrang blessed ako na nagkaroon ako ng mga teammates na talagang, 'yung support nila nandiyan," he added.
Yap averaged 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in the five-game series, although he very nearly became the goat in the contest when he missed two free throws that could have iced the game for the Mixers completely.
"Ganon talaga eh," he said of his two misses at the free throw line. "Ito 'yung time kasi na sobrang hirap i-close 'yung game. Pag andun ka na sa dulo, 'yung malapit na talaga matapos, 'yun 'yung pinaka-mahirap eh."
The Mixers actually missed four free throws down the stretch as Mark Barroca also flubbed twice at the charity stripe, leaving the door open for Rain or Shine to tie the game with a triple. Import Arizona Reid's attempt at the buzzer clanged in front of the rim, however, sending the Mixers into a wild celebration.
"Siyempre, 18 years bago nasundan ito," Yap said, referring to the last Grand Slam in the PBA, which was achieved by the Alaska Milkmen in 1996.
Yap drew praise from Cone – also the architect of Alaska's run in 1996 – for his remarkable composure in the face of what was the biggest game of the season.
"The calmness of James Yap, we were talking about it before the game," Cone said, adding that several of their players – including Marc Pingris and Joe Devance – were "jumping around."
"Everybody was so intense. And James was just kind of over in the corner, just relaxed. I told the coaching staff, 'That's why he's Big Game James.' Nothing fazes him," Cone added.
"He just comes out and plays calmly, and he's able to withstand the big moments. Tonight, again, he played that big moment."