B-MEG may have just come out a winner by the skin of its teeth but head coach Tim Cone is far from displeased.
In fact, Cone is the exact opposite after his Llamados edged the Barako Bull Energy, 88-86,
Wednesday to assume the early solo lead of the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Joe Devance highlighted a game-high 26-point performance with four of his team's last seven points and B-MEG held Barako to a lone field goal in the last four minutes of play for its follow-up to a 96-93 victory over Meralco on opening day.
Unlike last Friday, when the Llamados led by as many as 14 points in the fourth period before
cruising to the win, the victory over the Energy was more nerve-wracking.
For Cone, however, the victory does just fine as it meant more than their place in the standings in the short nine-game elimination round after which only the top six teams advance to the playoffs.
"As I've said before it's a sprint, so you've got to get wins when you can," said Cone. "Our next two games are against Petron Blaze and Talk ‘N Text. If we had split our first two games imagine the pressure on us going into those games.
"This (2-0 win-loss card) takes a little pressure off us and sets us up in our last five games if we can split the next two."
Barako dropped to an even 1-1 slate but it could have easily traded places with B-MEG.
Willie Miller had the chance to tie the game up, but he was challenged by two Llamados and his
lean-in potential game-tying jumper kissed off the glass too hard.
DerMarr Johnson scored 21 points to lead the Energy, but he was held to only two points and a
1-for-11 field goal shooting in the second half by the Llamados' alternating defense anchored mainly on Marc Pingris and JC Intal.
As a result, Barako went blank for close to a four-minute span in the stretch after going 1-for-8 from the field and missing two free throws.
Miller's triple broke the ice and moved the Energy within 86-87, but Josh Urbiztondo's charity gave them just 9.5 seconds to come up with an equalizer.
That was a stark turnaround for the same team that raced to as much as a 55-41 lead early in the
third period and appeared well on its way to a follow-up to its 98-78 shellacking of Alaska also
"In the second half our guys came out with more concentration and focus, making smarter plays,
defending the way we wanted them to defend," noted Cone.
Despite being saddled by foul trouble, Denzel Bowles managed to finish 19 with points and 13
rebounds. His undergoal stab sandwiched back-to-back baskets by Devance and helped give B-MEG an 87-83 cushion.
James Yap, who turned 30 yesterday, added 14 points for the Llamados with Pingris chipping in nine
and five rebounds, including a putback early in the third period that made him the 42nd member of the league's 1,000 Offensive Rebound club, the fifth to achieve the feat this season.
The youngest among the imports this conference at 22, Bowles picked up three fouls right in the
opening quarter and his fourth with still 7:14 to go in the half. The 22-year-old got slapped with his fifth, in the process giving Mick Pennisi a four-point play and Barako a 67-63 lead, but not after scattering 10 points in the third period that helped bring B-MEG within 69-71 going into the last 12 minutes of play.
"You can see Denzel is a dominant guy when he's on floor," stated Cone. "He's too valuable and he needs to stay on the floor. But that comes with youth. He will improve as we go along. He was smart enough and played more veteran-like in the stretch."
Johnson was the exact opposite as he missed all but one of his 15 field goal attempts in the second half, including all his three in the fourth period.
No one could have predicted Johnson's sorry windup as he was sizzling in the early goings,
especially in the second quarter that had him coming back into the game and promptly scoring 13 of his team's 16 points to give it as much as a 48-36 spread and 52-41 at the half. (NC)
BMEG 88 - Devance 26, Bowles 19, Yap J. 14, Pingris 9, Intal 8, Urbiztondo 4, De Ocampo 3, Reavis 2,Yap R. 2, Barroca 1, Simon 0.
BARAKO 86 - Johnson 21, Allado 14, Pennisi 12, Miller 9, Tubid 8, Pena 7, Arboleda 5, Salvador 4, Lanete 2, Andaya 2, Najorda 2.
Quarterscores: 26-23, 41-52, 69-71, 88-86