Sports: Meg back in Finals
Whether it’s Talk ‘N Text or Barako Bull, the B-Meg Llamados of mentor Tim Cone are ready and are ‘good to go’ for the best-of-seven title series in the Commissioner’s Cup of the Philippine Basketball Association’s 37th season (2011-12 campaign) following the ballclub’s 3-1 semifinal win over sister team Barangay Ginebra last Tuesday.
B-Meg won the first two games of the race-to-three duel with the crowd favorites before squandering Game 3 last Sunday with KG Canaleta and Mike Cortez leading the way for the crowd favorites in an 88-79 triumph at the Astrodome to reduce the Llamados’ lead to 2-1 before finally losing Game 4 at the Big Dome, 108-84.
With the victory, the franchise is back in a championship showdown once again for the 21st time since joining the league in 1988 as the Purefoods quintet. The Llamados are likewise aiming for a possible eighth PBA diadem against either TNT or the Energy with a titular win in the Second Conference.
During the same conference last season, B-Meg placed seventh with four wins as against five setbacks and failed to qualify for the quarterfinals under then mentor Jorge Gallent. The team had Robert Brown (one game), Shamari Spears (six outings) and Courtney Beasley (last two assignments) as imports.
The team also had such players then as Kerby Raymundo, Rico Maeirhofer, Don Allado, Chris Timberlake, Rommel Adducul, Jondan Salvador, Pong Escobal, Jonathan Fernandez and Canaleta aside from regular mainstays like James Yap, Jonas Villanueva, Peter June Simon, Marc Pingris, Raffy Reavis, Jerwin Gaco and Roger Yap (now with San Miguel Beer in the ABL).
But after several marquee trades and with Raymundo and company out of the team, players like Joe Devance, Josh Urbiztondo, JC Intal, Yancy De Ocampo, Val Acuna, Mike Burtscher as well as rookie Mark Barroca were added to the lineup to boost the team’s chances in the current season.
Add to that the enlistment of a proven multi-winner coach in Cone at the beginning of the current season, the Llamados were considered as one of the teams to beat in the All-Filipino although B-Meg was ambushed by Powerade in the quarterfinals via sweep and were eliminated despite co-topping the elimination round with TNT with similar 10-4 win-loss records.
After trading Maeirhofer and Raymundo to Ginebra via Barako Bull as conduit for De Ocampo and Intal, respectively during and after the Philippine Cup wars, B-Meg likewise released veterans John Ferriols and Roger Yap to SMB in the ASEAN Basketball League leaving the team shorthanded in as much as the team’s frontline is concerned.
In the current Commissioner’s Cup, however, Pingris, Reavis and Devance have stepped up in support of the 6-10 Bowles, a frontrunner in the Best Import of the Conference category, who played for James Madison University as well as Kempsville High School. Bowles is from Virginia Beach in Virginia.
Then known as Purefoods, the team last won a PBA diadem during the 2009-10 Philippine Cup wars against Alaska via sweep (4-0) exactly two seasons after losing the same All-Filipino Conference to the defunct Sta Lucia Realtors in a marathon seven games. Current Meralco Bolts bench tactician Ryan Gregorio then was calling the shots for the quintet.
During the 2005-06 season, Purefoods won the Philippine Cup crown over Red Bull (now Air21) after earlier losing the import-laced Fiesta Conference title to the same squad, that of Yeng Guiao’s Barako team, with both series lasting for six games. In the 2006-07 and 2008-09 seasons, Purefoods never placed higher than fifth in four conferences overall.
As for Cone, the American long-time mentor of the Uytengsu franchise has won 13 PBA crowns for Alaska starting with the 1991 Third Conference title. Cone’s last two diadems for the Aces were won during the 2007 and 2010 Fiesta Conference championships against TNT and San Miguel Beer (now Petron), respectively.
For B-Meg and for Cone, now is payback time!*
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