This is the Manila Clasico, the rivalry between the Barangay Ginebra and the San Mig Coffee Mixers (a. k. a. Purefoods in the 90s). Interestingly, the game was a close match throughout, and rightly so. While stats can prove useful to dissect the game, the first outing between Ginebra and San Mig Coffee in their best-of-seven series was more of a story of composure. Case in point: clutch and crunch time, the final two minutes of the neck-and-neck ball game.
Had it not been for that bad inbound pass of Mark Baracael, Ginebra would have had at least a shot. The worse that could have happened was for Ginebra to go into overtime. But credit should go where credit is due. The boys of San Mig Coffee showed what their team is capable of doing in deadlock situations where a win is barely less than thirty seconds away. Though Barroca only dished 5 points throughout the game, his winning shot after a steal was nothing short of heroic. I can hear Ginebra's fans (I am one) blaming Baracael for that major boo-boo moment of his.
To be fair, Baracael was able to give Ginebra a two-point lead after swiping the ball off of Barroca's hands and dishing the ball ahead to Tenorio for that fast break layup. With under a minute left in regulation, Ginebra would have celebrated their first win in the series. Baracael's steal and assist combo would have certainly been the story of the night.
Except that it wasn't. You see, SMC's coach, Tim Cone, has been under the same tight situation countless of times in the past, and he knows how to play his pieces in order to snatch a W. After that Baracael-assist, Cone called a timeout to muster a quick play for his boys. Sure enough, proper execution paid off as Joe Devance was able to free himself of his defender and find himself all alone under the basket for an easy deuce. And who was it who was supposed to guard Devance?
Baracael. Hero suddenly became zero. And the worst part was yet to come.
Ginebra's coach, Ato Agustin, had no choice but to burn one of his two full timeouts remaining. Agustin devised an inbound play. Referee's whistle and the game resumes. Inbound situation. Nothing. The rock was stuck. Baracael, who had the onus of making the inbound pass, was forced to call Ginebra's last timeout. So he did. And here's the interesting part: in the dugout, it was difficult to see who was doing the coaching job. Though Agustin had the board and marker in his hands, the other coaching staff members were also serving their own take on what must be done. At some point, they were in brief disagreement over who should do what. That is not what a coaching staff with composure does. That is what amateurs commit. And the result couldn't have been any clearer --- the inbound play flopped.
And so, the steal, Barroca sprinting with the ball, stopping and pulling up for a jumper, then swoosh. Basket. San Mig Coffee takes the win.
So what should we expect in game 2? More of the same intense and close scoring. The rest of the series will be decided by the question of who has the better composure.