San Mig in come-from-behind Game 1 victory
MANILA: San Mig Coffee got the headstart that it wanted against Rain or Shine in the Mixers’ drive for the Grand Slam, though it can’t get any more controversial than this one.
James Yap hit two straight jumpers that completed the Mixers’ rise from 17 points down as San Mig took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five clash with the Elasto Painters for the PBA Governors’ Cup after a 104-101 decision Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
But even winning coach Tim Cone came for the customary winning coach’s interview not wearing a smile like he used to, knowing that they scraped out of this one barely and that the rest of this series will be fought tooth and nail.
Paul Lee had a chance to equalize and send the game into extra time, getting Marc Pingris airborne with a great fake for a three-point shot before being nudged out of balance with the referee not calling a foul.
It was a play that tainted the beauty of the series-opener, and a play that even Cone himself admitted to being a part of — and being in the losing end – before.
“It’s always tough when a game is decided with a (non-) call like that,” Cone said before narrating a same experience while coaching Alaska against, interestingly enough, Purefoods, which is now San Mig.
“I remember Kerby (Raymundo) having the same shot and the referees called a foul on us,” he said. “We ended up losing that game. We got the advantage this time (with that non-call). I don’t know whether that was a foul or not.”
Rain or Shine players and team officials took some time before leaving the floor, even if the predominantly big San Mig crowd started jeering and shouting cat calls at them.
Coach Yeng Guiao also took a while before he made it to the press room. He sounded cool, but in listening intently to what he said, one can sense the anguish in the man.
“I just thought that Paul got fouled in the last play,” Guiao said. “AZ (Reid, their import) got the same call (in the previous offensive) because they (referees) thought that the game was over.
“But with Paul (Lee’s attempt), they knew that it could change the outcome (of the game) and they (referees) did not call the foul.”
Yap, the former two-time MVP, first hit a triple and then had a tight jumper that ushered the Mixers to a 101-93 lead going inside the final minute that completed San Mig’s rise from a 62-69 deficit in the third period.
And after Gabe Norwood missed a triple of his own on the other end for the Painters, Marqus Blakely canned two free throws off a Beau Belga foul that staked the Mixers to a 103-98 lead going into the final 8.1 seconds.
After that, Reid drew that foul that Guiao was talking about, when he also faked Peter June Simon for a three-point shot that resulted in three free throws and had the Painters moving within 101-103.
Simon had a split from the line on the other end after a duty foul by Jeff Chan with 3.6 seconds left, certainly enough time for the Painters to launch one final play that could eventually forge extension.
And then the referees whistles went silent.
“I just feel that we deserve that call,” Guiao said. “We are the decided underdogs in this series, and we need all the breaks that we can get. But it was denied to us.”
Game 2, which is now a must-win for the Elasto Painters, will be on Thursday also at 8 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
San Mig is shooting to win this tournament to complete just the league’s fifth Grand Slam, the first in 18 years. The last team to do it was Alaska in 1996 when the Aces were handled by Cone himself.