Big men, team in long game, series, season
MANILA, Philippines - Three different franchises took turns to rise and shine in the just concluded PBA Season 38, and Petron Blaze’s Arwind Santos – largely on the strength of accumulated stats – soared to the pinnacle of glory in winning the year’s most precious individual plum.
But to almost everybody, it’s the year of “Ping” more than anything.
Marc Pingris was consumed by determination, diving for the loose ball and dying to make the stops and get the rebounds in the last game of the season Friday night.
In the waning seconds of the long game, long series and long season, the truth was undeniable. With Pingris on the line, the crowd of over 21,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum was chanting as one: “MVP! MVP! MVP.”
Pingris churned out 19 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks and two assists in a brave performance leading the Mixers to an 87-77 win over the Petron Blaze Boosters in the deciding Game Seven of the PBA Governors Cup championship.
The 6-foot-4 forward from Pozzorubio, Pangasinan was all hustle and heart, reminiscent of his heroics in Gilas Pilipinas’ conquest of Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship last August.
With Pingris leading the Mixers’ emotional effort – exemplified by big blocks on Junmar Fajardo and Elijah Millsap in the clutch – San Mig Coffee survived a great battle against the Petron Blaze team rebuilt with a mission to relive the franchise’s winning tradition.
Petron’s bid has to wait.
Pushed to the brink, the Mixers proved to be tenacious even when top gun James Yap didn’t lead them.
In this Game Seven thriller, Pingris took charge with the championship on the line.
And in the end, there’s no denying he’s the most deserving to bring home the Papa John’s Pizza Finals MVP trophy.
“He did all the work. He’s just fantastic,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone lauding the man who made the big difference in the team’s 10th championship since joining the league in 1988.
“Pinatay kami ni Ping (Ping killed us),” said Santos.
Pingris put a fitting climax to a splendid personal season also marked by his inclusion in the Mythical Second Team and All-Defensive Team.
But he would be best remembered as the heroic energizer in two of the biggest games in the year – the Gilas-Korea match and the San Mig Coffee-Petron Blaze Game Seven duel.
“Ang isip ko laro lang talaga (I was just focused on the game),” said Pingris, trying to downplay his gallant exploits that enabled his team to fulfill a quest they failed to complete last year.
The Boosters, on the other hand, ended up with a shattered dream.
The Governors Cup champ in 2011, Petron embarked on a serious quest to reclaim the crown with a team souped up by young talented players – Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz and Doug Kramer.
The coaching staff was also overhauled with rookie coach Gee Abanilla and American consultant Todd Purves coming aboard after the second conference.
They had a dominant run early on only to be stopped by San Mig’s grizzled warriors in the finale.
“I’m disappointed not because we lost, but because I knew they really gave everything they got and they wanted to win this game. Unfortunately, we fell short,” said Abanilla.
“But looking ahead, this is the first step of something we want to build on,” Abanilla also said.