With Talk ‘N Text roaring back into the game to take a 67-62 lead at the end of the third quarter, B-MEG coach Tim Cone made a small tactical move that spelled a big difference in the game.
He inserted Joe Devance into the game to play point-forward, giving the Llamados a guard lineup of Peter June Simon and James Yap. Tropang Texters guard Jimmy Alapag was forced to take on Simon on a mismatch, allowing the B-MEG hotshot guard from Makilala, Cotabato to sizzle for eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. Simon was the instigator of a 15-2 run that allowed the Llamados to turn things around and grab Game One of the Commissioner’s Cup finals.
“That’s always a weapon for us,” said Cone about his big backcourt alignment. “We have three very good point guards (Josh Urbiztondo, Mark Barroca, and Jonas Villanueva) and I hate taking out all of them. But it’s an option for us, because we can put Joe in and he can handle the ball.”
Apart from Simon’s scoring, B-MEG was able to attack the defense of Alapag, the engine of Talk ‘N Text’s potent transition offense. Cone took a page out of Barako Bull, which employed a similar tactic against the PBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player in its semifinal series against Talk ‘N Text.
“Barako played Willie [Miller] at the point guard spot, and they kept posting him up. Jimmy Alapag had a hard time staying on the floor,” said Cone.
Talk ‘N Text coach Chot Reyes, for his part, gave credit to Simon’s performance, but said it wasn’t the reason his team lost.
“He’s a hell of a player. He’s a great player. We had a lot of defensive lapses, I’ll leave you that,” said Reyes, who pointed to his team’s woes from the free throw line as well as on the offensive end as reasons for the loss.
Cone said the Simon move was just one of the tricks the Llamados sprung upon the Tropang Texters.
“We kind of caught them by surprise them a little bit, we did some different things to take away some of their strengths,” said Cone, before adding that he expects the Talk ‘N Text coaching staff to adjust. “They’ll be able to figure it all out.”