SAN MIGUEL PULLS EVEN, 2 - 2
Wed, 07/08/2009 - 22:49 — junior SOURCE: PBA.pH
GABE Freeman is not the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference Best Import for nothing.
Freeman came up with the most crucial plays down the stretch as San Miguel Beer scored a 106-104 escape over Barangay Ginebra Wednesday to bring their championship series at the Araneta Coliseum to square one anew.
Freeman's basket off his own offensive rebound and pair of charities in the last 13.5 seconds gave the Beermen a 105-101 lead that would prove critical when one is playing a team like the Kings.
And Ginebra reprised its never-say-die attitude once more, with Noel draining a clutch triple off a timeout, putting the crowd favorites within one, still 10.7 ticks left.
Then all went for naught after Mike Cortez split his charities just one second later.
In the frenetic series of events that ensued, Ginebra coach Jong Uichico was not able to call his lone remaining timeout and Chico Lanete and Ronald Tubid, instead of going for a mere equalizer, each missed their respective three-point try.
The victory should be a sweet one for SMB coach Siot Tanquingcen, coming as it did on the heels of a 103-116 loss in Game 3. Yet he first opted to lash out at the game officials for what he termed as being drawn in by the predominantly pro-Ginebra crowd.
“Not taking anything away from Ginebra because they played really hard and they shot very well. But we're not getting any breaks from the refs,” he said, partly referring to the 28 fouls called against them.
“Konting kanti kami, foul agad ang tawag. Pag nakanti mo kahit balahibo lang nila, nasa foul line na sila,” he said. “Pero it's human nature. We just have to deal with it.”
Uichico said it all boiled down to SMB's 24 offensive rebounds which the Beermen translated to 23 points.
“Just take two or four points off those we could have won it,” he said.
Freeman wound up with 23 points and 21 rebounds, with Dondon Hontiveros adding 19 points and Cortez and Danny Ildefonso combining for 33.
Newly-crowned season MVP Jayjay Helterbrand and Noel each had 22 points for Ginebra, although the former had to sit out the game's last three minutes when his injured hamstring acted up, prompting Uichico to rest the newly-crowned MVP.
Noel also had 18 rebounds and four assists, but missed three straight free throws in the last 16.2 seconds, following Freeman's putback.
The game had 18 deadlocks and 17 lead changes, the most in a PBA championship game since Talk 'N Text and Red Bull forged 13 and 23, respectively, in their 2002 Commissioner's Cup finale.
Despite Tanquingcen's post-game insinuations, SMB actually held sway for majority of the fourth quarter, building on what Hontiveros started in the period by posting the game's biggest difference at 99-92, off Cortez's triple, still 3:16 left.
But Ginebra tenaciously crept itself back into the game, led by Eric Menk, who spiked his 21-point output with five points in a 9-2 counter capped by Noel's free throws that tied it up at 101, 37.6 remaining.
“At least we had a shot,” noted Uichico.
Earlier, Hontiveros made a mockery of newly-named All-Defensive Team member Ronald Tubid, hitting three straight triples to rally the Beermen from a 71-73 deficit and propping them to an 81-76 lead.
Sunday Salvacion's triple gave Ginebra a 61-56 lead inside the first five minutes of the third period, but the trend that begun in the first half continued as the two teams remained entangled in a tight embrace.
The return of Ildefonso and Marc Pingris, fined and suspended the last time out for trying to go after a Ginebra fan, was expectedly greeted with derision by the predominantly pro-Kings crowd who repeatedly jeered the two.
Still it was SMB which took the half, 47-46, mainly due to Cortez, who went 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and 3-for-4 inside it for 12 points in the second period.
Freeman was no slouch either as he already teetered on the brink of a double-double with nine points and 12 boards at the half.
Helterbrand and Noel prevented Ginebra from falling too far behind as the former scattered 12 of his 14 first half points in the second period with the latter notching 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Beermen actually led by as much as 22-16 early but no immediate breakaway was forthcoming as the two teams battrled through 10 deadlocks and eight lead changes in the first 24 minutes of play.
San Miguel 106 - Freeman 23, Hontiveros 19, Cortez 18, Ildefonso 15, Villanueva 9, Washington 9, Pena 7, Pingris 6, Racela 0, Pennisi 0.
Ginebra 104 - Helterbrand 22, Noel 22, Menk 21, Tubid 10, Reavis 10, Baguio 9, Salvacion 5, Lanete 2, Mamaril 2, Wilson 1.
Quarters: 24-26, 47-46, 71-73, 106-104.