MANILA, Philippines - Peter June Simon was at the right place at the right time in the most crucial moment of the game, delivering the basket that lifted B-Meg past Barangay Ginebra, 74-72, and into a second straight PBA finals before a screaming souls of over 14,000 last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Simon soared over the much taller Rico Maierhofer to follow up a missed jumper by Marcus Blakely with 2.5 seconds left as the Llamados eked out the heart-stopping victory and gained the right to battle the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the Commissioner’s Cup finale.
B-Meg and Rain or Shine begin their best-of-seven title playoff at 6 p.m. tomorrow also at the Big Dome. The Llamados, the Commissioner’s Cup champs, will chase a first back-to-back championships while the Elasto Painters pursue a first-ever crown.
“I feel we really just got lucky with PJ (Simon) being there. We’re lucky and we take it,” said an ecstatic B-Meg coach Tim Cone, who now has a chance to tie coach Baby Dalupan’s winning record of 15 championships.
“We survived Ginebra, and now we try to go hard against Rain or Shine,” Cone also said. “They pose a lot of matchup problems to us. They’re physical. They’re tough guys and tough opponents.”
Against the Kings in a highly physical and highly emotional battle, the Llamados pulled through on Simon’s putback sandwiched by two missed three-pointers by Kerby Raymundo.
The Ginebra crowd went delirious as the Kings gained possession with 43.8 ticks left and the count tied at 72-all.
Alas, the Kings didn’t execute a good play with Cedric Bozeman dribbling away the clock before passing off to Raymundo who, without hesitation, threw a shot from way, way out, instead of going hard to the basket.
Blakely grabbed the crucial defensive rebound with the game clock reading 00:21.5.
The Llamados sued for time and went to their import at the resumption of play.
Like the Kings in the previous play, Blakely played the clock before launching an attack. He stopped, popped and missed but Simon was there for the putback, sending the team to their 23rd finals overall.
The Kings actually had a chance to force overtime but they again went to Raymundo who missed another three-point attempt at the buzzer.
It was a sorry loss for the Kings who rallied from 10-point deficits in the first half and dragged the Llamados to a battle in the last two quarters.
KG Canaleta beat the shotclock buzzer as the Kings forged a 72-all deadlock with 1:58 left.
Sluggish and tentative were the Kings in the first half that they trailed by 10 twice at 19-29 and 31-41.
They gained some relief at the half as Jayjay Helterbrand scored on a short baseline jumper, then Bozeman banged away a three-pointer from the left quartercourt inside the last 29 seconds.
In his listlessness early on, Helterbrand, in one instance, passed the ball to the B-Meg coach who’s standing in front of their bench.
James Yap fired seven points in his return to the floor towards the end of the second half, sparking a run that gave B-Meg the 41-31 spread.
The two-time MVP awardee capped his second-quarter with two free throws following a hard collision with former teammate Kerby Raymundo. The two were whistled a double technical foul.