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    Cone gamble pays off as rookie Melton seizes his opportunity to shine

    Jan 28, 2014
    San Mig rookie Justin Melton adds to his highlight collection with a two-handed dunk off a Ginebra turnover. Jerome Ascano

    FAST on his feet and with a terrific leap, Justin Melton certainly jumped on the oportunity to make his mark in Game One of San Mig's PBA Philippine Cup semifinal playoff against Ginebra on Tuesday night.

    Given more minutes as San Mig coach Tim Cone tried to give PJ Simon more rest after a taxing series against deposed champion Talk 'N text, the 5-10 rookie gave much more than what his coach expected to play a key role in the Mixers' thrilling 85-83 victory.

    “I kind of went away from my coaching style because, usually 95 percent of the time, I bring my starters back in the fourth quarter," said Cone when asked about his decision to stick with small guards Mark Barroca and Melton in the fourth quarter.

    "But with Justin and Mark playing so well in the fourth quarter, they were able to play well against Mark (Caguioa),” he added.

    The Angeles City-born Fil-American guard scored seven of his eight points in the final period, including a booming three-pointer to give San Mig an 80-75 lead heading into the final three minutes.

    The former Mount Olive College standout also added to his growing highlight reel collection when he soared for a two-handed dunk off a Ginebra turnover.

    Melton, taken by San Mig in the second round at 13th overall in the last draft after a stint with the Malaysian Dragons in the ABL, ended up playing for 20 minutes in Game One, going 3-of-4 from the field while adding six rebounds and an assist.

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    The San Mig guard didn't sound surprised when asked about his extended minutes, saying he trusts Cone to make the right decisions for the team.

    "It's coach Cone's call and I trust him on whatever he decides," Melton said. "I trust him completely."

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    San Mig rookie Justin Melton adds to his highlight collection with a two-handed dunk off a Ginebra turnover. Jerome Ascano
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