Desperate Tim Cone turns to 'zone buster' James Yap to rescue Purefoods in OT
James Yap is congratulated by Purefoods teammate Marc Pingris after hitting a key three-pointer in overtime against San Miguel Beer. Jaime Campos

JAMES Yap wasn’t supposed to play heavy minutes after coming off an injury. But when coach Tim Cone counted on him to push his limit, he delivered anyway.

The Purefoods mentor said he planned to use Yap and PJ Simon sparingly after both players returned from sickbay, but ended up relying on the latter more in overtime of their 113-105 victory over San Miguel Beer in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday by force of circumstances.

“We’re trying to preserve them a little bit and bring them back in slowly so they can get their rhythm,” Cone said of Yap and Simon, who both came back from knee and back injuries, respectively.

“But they (Beermen) went to zone and I don’t think there’s a better zone-buster in the league than James Yap, so we were forced to play him.”

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Yap, who only had two days of practice, played 30 minutes as he made his comeback in style by hitting two crucial three-pointers and dishing out an assist in the extra session en route to the hard-earned victory that snapped a three-game skid.

Yap, though, insisted he felt fine after playing more than what Cone would’ve wanted.

“Wala akong ginawa nung na-injure ako kundi mag-therapy at magpakundisyon, although wala takbo masyado, so yung katawan ko hindi naman nahirapan,” said Yap, who turned 33 last month.

The two-time league MVP was just glad he repaid his coach’s trust.

“Buti na lang pumasok mga tira ko. Syempre sa tulong rin ng teammates ko, hindi sila nawawalan ng tiwala sa akin.”

Even in regulation, Yap had a chance to seal the win as he was given space for a step-back three-point attempt that was halfway in before rimming out.

“Sarap ng pakiramdam ng release ko ‘nun. ‘Dun ako nakakuha ng kumpiyansa going to overtime. Sinubukan ko ulit at buti na lang nadala ko.”

That negated Marcio Lassiter’s own torrid shooting in the fourth quarter where he scored 13 of his 21 points to lead the Beermen in their fightback.

“Pag ganun ka-init kasi, pag na-open ka, parang ang lapit mo na (sa ring) eh. Ganun yung naramdaman niya (Lassiter) kanina,” Yap said.

“So kailangan 'yung defense talaga nandun. Hindi kami nag-sa-sag sa kanya. Talagang stay home kami sa kanya.”

Then it was Yap’s turn to go in the zone in the extra session. He had the last laugh.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos