Unbelieva-Bowles! B-Meg import carries Llamados to title

Denzel Bowles sank two free throws with 1.2 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, then took over in the extension period to carry the B-Meg Llamados to a come-from-behind 90-84 win over the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in Game 7 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals at the jampacked Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Bowles took a pass from James Yap and was fouled by Kelly Williams after missing a point-blank shot that would have tied it outright. Before a banner crowd of 21,046, he calmly made both foul shots to tie the score at 76. Out of timeouts, Talk ‘N Text had to inbound from its backcourt, and Jayson Castro’s prayer from way out was off, completing the Llamados’ comeback from six points down with just under two minutes left in regulation.

“I knew I would make the second (free throw),” said Bowles of his overtime-clinching charities. “When the shot left my hands, you watch the video, I was stepping back already. The first one, I had a little doubt, it kind of skirted in. It was destiny for me to win this thing. We’ve been working so hard. I really believe we deserve it.”

In overtime, Bowles scored 11 straight points as TNT ran out of warm bodies to guard him. Donnell Harvey fouled out with three minutes left in regulation, and Ali Peek followed suit early in the overtime period. Bowles came through with three clutch jumpers, a drive, a putback and a free throw and finished with 39 points and 21 rebounds to power the Llamados to their first title since the 2009-10 season.

“The last three games, I hadn’t shot the ball like that,” Bowles said when asked about his three huge jumpers in overtime. “When I get the feeling, I just feel that any shot I take is gonna go in.”
This had to be a very painful loss for the Tropa, who were well on their way to successfully defending their crown and winning their second title in a row. They were comfortably ahead, 69-60, with a little over six minutes left, before B-Meg scored seven straight points to come to within two.

But even then, things were still clicking for TNT. On the next play, Larry Fonacier launched a desperation three with the shot clock winding down that bounced off the backboard and nestled softly through the net, giving the Tropa a five-point lead with three minutes left. Yap then flubbed a short stab, a miss that already had him mentally conceding that it wasn’t meant to be.

“To be honest,” Yap said in Filipino, “I thought it was all over, that it was for TNT, especially after I missed that layup. It was theirs already. I guess that’s why they say the ball is round.”

It certainly seemed that TNT had it wrapped up after Peek beat everyone downcourt for an easy layup that made it 74-68 for TNT with two minutes left. But the Tropa couldn’t close it out, allowing the Llamados to come to within one, 75-74, after Peek split his free throws and Joe Devance rebounded a missed Yap triple and scored on a putback.

The Llamados again fouled Peek with 12.3 seconds left, and again the big man split his free throws. Yap drove into the lane but missed a runner, and all TNT had to do was grab the rebound. But the ball was knocked loose and found its way back to Yap, who rifled a pass to an open Bowles.
 
The 23-year-old Best Import awardee missed an easy shot, and initially the buzzer sounded to signal what appeared to be a won game for TNT, but a referee signaled that a foul had been committed by Williams, much to the disbelief of the TNT bench, which was ready to erupt in celebration.

After 1.2 seconds was put back on the clock, Bowles displayed nerves of steel and hit both free throws. Team manager Alvin Patrimonio was so overcome by the moment that he rushed onto the court and gave Bowles a hug even as the game was headed into overtime.

“I didn’t doubt that he would make those two free throws,” said B-Meg coach Tim Cone, who won his first title since taking over the Llamados last year and his 14th overall. “For some reason I knew he was gonna make them.

“I was shocked, actually, that he was wide open and he missed. We didn’t hear the whistle right away, and it was like, ‘Ah, sayang. He missed it.’ Then all of a sudden, the referee runs in the middle of the pack and raises his hand (to signal a foul). Whoa, great!

“A lot of things had to break right in order for us to win that game.”

(GALLERY: See photos of Game 7)

While the Tropa controlled most of the second half, in the end they succumbed to injuries and foul trouble, leaving them badly depleted in the crucial stages of the game. Ryan Reyes injured his ankle on a drive to the basket, while Ranidel De Ocampo and Jimmy Alapag both had to be taken out due to cramps.

It was a particularly bitter loss for Alapag, who played his best game of the finals and finished with 29 points, including seven triples. He forced himself to come back into the game in overtime even though he could barely run, but he merely hastened his team’s downfall with an errant pass with 54 seconds to go and B-Meg leading by four.

The Tropa also didn’t help their cause any by going only 8-for-21 from the free throw line, including those two crucial misses by Peek in the last 39 seconds.

Yap, who finished with only 12 points and went scoreless in the middle two quarters before scoring five crucial points in the fourth, was named Finals MVP after averaging 19.9 points over seven games. Afterwards, he was still at a loss for words when asked about their comeback.

“I still can’t believe we won,” he said. “Wala akong masabi (I don’t know what to say).”

The league takes a break with the All-Star Weekend next week in Laoag before hostilities resume on May 20 with the opening of the season-ending Governors Cup, which will feature imports six-five and below.

B-Meg (90) – Bowles 39, Simon 14, Yap J 12, Urbiztondo 11, Villanueva 5, De Ocampo Y 4, Devance 2, Pingris 2, Barroca 1, Intal 0, Reavis 0.

Talk ‘N Text (84) - Alapag 29, Harvey 16, Fonacier 11, Peek 10, Dillinger 8, Castro 5, de Ocampo R. 3, Reyes 2, Williams 0, Gamalinda 0, Carey 0.

Quarterscores: 21-18, 34-35, 56-61, 76-76, 90-84.

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