PETER June Simon believes Divine intervention somehow aided his game-winning putback in B-Meg’s stirring 74-72 win over Barangay Ginebra Friday in their do-or-die encounter for a berth in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
“Grace ni Lord na lang talaga yun,” said the soft-spoken sixth man from North Cotabato, who snared a huge offensive rebound off towering Rico Maierhofer and turned it to a follow-up basket with 2.5 seconds left that broke a tight 72-72 contest.
Prior to Simon’s heroics, B-Meg import Marcus Blakely ran down the clock in the final 10 seconds before launching a step-back jumper that missed its mark.
The Kings were in a better position to get the rebound, but the 6-foot-6 Maierhofer forgot to box out Simon who was coming off the weak side.
“PJ was just in the right place, at the right time,” B-Meg coach Tim Cone perfectly said.
“Nakita ko na kapos tira niya (Blakely), so inunahan ko na lang si Rico ng talon,” Simon said as he tries to recall the last-second sequence of the thrilling ballgame before a crowd of 14,068 at the Araneta Coliseum.
There were signs of portent of things to come for the 6-foot-1 crafty guard as early as the third quarter when he hit a buzzer-beating runner to end the period and put the Llamados on top, 58-57, entering the final 12 minutes of play.
But more than his game-winner, Simon, who scored 11 points in 24 minutes off the bench, attributed the victory to the Llamados’ success to contain Ginebra’s veteran guards, particularly the “Fast and Furious” tandem of Mark Caguioa and Jay-Jay Helterbrand.
The 32-year-old Caguioa scored 14 points, but was 6-of-19 from the field, while Helterbrand, 36, finished with just two points in 15 minutes.
It will be a different story in the Finals though against Rain or Shine, which boasts a plethora of young guards in Rookie of the Year frontrunner Paul Lee, Ryan Araña, and Jeff Chan.
“Mga bata `yung mga yun,” the 32-year-old Simon acknowledged. “Challenge sa amin na ma-contain `yung running game nila.”