The B-Meg Llamados are in the finals of the PBA Commissioner's Cup as Denzel Bowles once again dished out a sterling playoff performance, pouring in 34 points and grabbing 14 rebounds to power his team to a convincing 108-84 Game 4 victory over the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
B-Meg clinched the best-of-five semifinal series, three games to one, and now awaits the winner of the Talk 'N Text-Barako Bull rubber match later tonight.
"It's good to be back," said B-Meg coach Tim Cone, who will be coaching in his 24th PBA finals, and first with the Llamados. "I am just real tickled pink for the players, for Denzel for the management. I feel real good for them."
The Kings, who were hoping to duplicate their 2009 Philippine Cup feat of overcoming a 0-2 best-of-five deficit, got off to a hot start and posted a 25-11 lead behind Jackson Vroman and Dylan Ababou. B-Meg came right back and tied it up at 35 on Joe Devance triple, before Ginebra inched ahead again at 44-38 midway through the second period.
What happened next virtually decided the outcome of the game. Bowles scattered 10 points and joined forces with Marc Pingris and Mark Barroca as the Llamados went on a 19-0 tear to wrest control at 58-44. Mike Cortez's two free throws just before halftime broke Ginebra's long silence and cut the lead to 12, but it was the closest the Kings would get for the rest of the game as B-Meg dominated the second half and coasted to victory. The patented Ginebra rally never materialized as Ababou and Vroman fouled out one after the other. Bowles put the final exclamation point on the series win with two vicious dunks off lob passes from PJ Simon and Josh Urbiztondo that more or less highlighted B-Meg's domination of this series.
For Cone, the victory helped ease the stigma of their shock quarterfinal loss to Powerade in the last conference and gave him confidence that his team is coming together at the right time. Except for Game 3, when Pingris was tossed and Cone decided to go with a zone defense, the Llamados were in complete control of the Kings.
"We're still growing as a team," he said. "Obviously we really want to win this championship. Funny though we had a 2-1 lead, we said, 'Let's do something risky, something different. Let's start with the zone.' We didn't play the zone well and they jumped on us.
"This group of guys, they just keep on playing. It's not my coaching that did it, it's their plays. Denzel bringing us back, making every tough play. He was defending. He was just amazing. That's what inspired us, watching him come out and play like that.
"We talk a lot about growth. That Powerade thing, it bitterly disappointed us. We learned how not to take anything for granted. It helped us. You hate it when it's happening to you but it motivated us. Everything we do leads us to better things. I'm happy for the guys, they really want this."
Cone said he hadn't been monitoring the other semifinal series since he wanted to focus solely on Ginebra, but now that they are in the finals he gave a glimpse of what he thought of each team.
"I always want to go up against Chot (Reyes)," said Cone of his former assistant. "It would also be our pride to play against Danny (Seigle). Barako will be ready to play. It's a toss-up in that series."
For the second straight series, Bowles outplayed his more senior counterpart. After coming up with a monster performance in Game 3 of their quarterfinal series against NBA vet Earl Barron, the 22-year-old won his match-up with international veteran Vroman by a mile, averaging 21.4 points and 12.3 rebounds compared to the 10.5 and 9.5 of Vroman, who incredibly failed to score a single field goal in the fourth period of any of the four semifinal games.