Sportsaholic

Fired-up David leads Powerade past B-Meg

Bo Perasol talks about Gary David's 37-point performance. Photo by Sid Ventura.

Don't make Gary David angry. You won't like him when he's angry, especially if you're on the other team.

Fired up by a third-quarter altercation between teammate Celino Cruz and B-Meg's Josh Urbiztondo, as well as a tweet that gave them "no chance in hell" to beat the Llamados, David exploded for 37 points to lead the Powerade Tigers to a monumental 131-123 upset of top-seeded B-Meg in overtime in the PBA Philippine Cup.

"No chance in hell daw, kaya nandito kami ngayon sa heaven," David declared shortly after the huge win that propelled the Tigers into their first conference semifinals in seven years, and first Philippine Cup semis in eight.

"Lahat ng mga iyan, tumatak sa isip ko kung ano man ang sinabi nila. Talagang inisip ko iyan mula sa Game 1 hanggang sa Game 2, iyang challenge na binibigay sa akin."

If this is what David gets going, then Tigers coach Bo Perasol better hope people again downplay their chances in the semifinals.

Early on, though, it looked as if David wasn't going to deliver. Early in the third period, he had only nine points and his team down 71-57. To make amtters worse, point guard JV Casio sprained his ankle landing on the foot of Josh Urbiztondo while attempting a triple. The crack point guard had to be taken out of the game, and Cruz came in for him.

Cruz, apparently upset by Urbiztondo's sticking out his foot that led to Casio's injury, threw a quick jab at the B-Meg guard that was caught by the officials, who quickly T-ed up the Powerade guard. Urbiztondo whispered something into Cruz's ear, and all hell broke loose. An enraged Cruz had to be restrained by three people as he charged at Urbiztondo. B-Meg coach Tim Cone rushed from the bench to pull away Urbiztondo and at the same time scold him for exacerbating an already volatile situation.

When the smoke cleared, Urbiztondo was whistled for a technical foul for taunting, while Cruz got his second technical and was ejected. If Cone had feared Urbiztondo was risking igniting a fire in the Tigers, then he was right, because what happened next will go down in PBA lore as one of the great individual performances in PBA playoff history.

"Doon ako ginanahan," David said of the altercation. "Kasi masayadong malamya iyong laro, kaya siguro it's time na to take the challenge.

Actually, David nearly got himself into trouble as well. He wanted to have a go at Urbiztondo but couldn't get near him since Cone was there. And his first reaction after play resumed was to commit a hard offensive foul on a B-Meg player.

But once he rechanneled his emotions properly, David set out to essay a jaw-dropping scoring outburst that made him the no. 1 Philippine trending topic on Twitter last night. The numbers show the transformation: after Cruz was ejected, David went on to score 28 of his 37 points, including a stretch where he made 16 in a row.

But it wasn't solely a Gary David show. Josh Valandingham scored eight straight points early in the fourth to keep the Tigers within striking distance just as B-Meg was threatening to blow the game wide open after a PJ Simon spin move made it 91-78 with 10:08 left. Valandingham tipped in a Casio miss and answered Mark Barroca's triple with two of his own to cut the deficit to eight. When the Llamados again inched ahead by double digits at 102-90, Casio teamed with David and struck two threes of his own to help the Tigers cut it to four, 109-105, with 2:45 left.

David tied it up at 112 with a booming three, but James Yap came right back with a nice fake and basket to make it 114-112 for B-Meg with only 56 seconds left. Kramer then lost the ball after colliding with Kerby Raymundo, forcing the Tigers to foul Barroca with only 28 seconds left. A 71% free throw shooter, Barroca split his free throws to keep it a one-possession game.

Given a new lease on life, David took advantage by burying another triple to tie it up again at 115 with only 11.7 seconds to go. Yap threw the ball away on the other end, but David lost the ball while driving to the basket.

The game was headed into overtime, where the Llamados simply fell apart and David continued his onslaught, scoring on a drive to give the Tigers their first lead since 16-13. Raymundo, who was solid for most of regulation, muffed two free throws, and you could almost see a drop in the collective body language of B-Meg. David nailed a very long triple and knocked down two free throws to give Powerade a 122-115 lead with only 2:43 to go. Then after Yap scored on a one-handed floater, the Llamados inexplicably left David wide open, and he calmly buried another three to make it 125-117.

B-Meg churned out one last run, scoring six unanswered points to come to within two. But Marcio Lassiter, another unsung hero, did his best David impersonation, sinking a long triple of his own that made it 128-123 with only 23 ticks left. After Yap missed badly on the other end, it was over, and Powerade had become just the third eighth seed to knock off a no. 1 seed in PBA history.

David shot 8-for-12 from three-point distance, 4-for-8 on two-point shots, and a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. During his 16 straight points, he celebrated each made shot by looking a t his hands as if they were on fire.

"Basta pagbato ko ng bola, magaang sa kamay," he said of his performance. "Iyong kamay ko, akala ko umaapoy, kaya hinipan ko. Hindi mamatay iyong apoy, may baga pa."

"He was the one who salvaged the game for us," Perasol said of David. "Everybody contributed, but the biggest contribution came from him."

For the second game in a row, the PBA quarterfinals produced a classic that went down the wire and eventually into overtime, with one team rallying from a 17-point deficit. Last Friday, Rain or Shine beat Barangay Ginebra, 112-105, in overtime after trailing 79-62 early in the fourth. But this game was the bigger upset, since the Tigers were the eighth seed going up against the top-seeded Llamados.

What's more, B-Meg entered the quarterfinals enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage and were overwhelming favorites to oust Powerade. But the Tigers captured Game 1, 97-88 last Wednesday to set up this do-or-die encounter, with David leading the way with 32 points.

E-mail: sid_ventura@yahoo.com.

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