By Waylon Galvez
About 10 minutes after Grand Slam-geared San Miguel Beer ended the seven-game winning streak of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel last Sunday, coach Tim Cone walked out of the locker room, his head bowed. When reporters approached him for a few quotes, the PBA’s winningest coach politely begged off as though his team had just absorbed its seventh straight loss.
Several minutes later, Cone’s top point guard, LA Tenorio, dodged the bullet and essayed a similar hasty retreat.
But all wasn’t lost for the scribes.
The man of the hour – SMB’s new import Terrence Watson – was full of energy as he engaged sportswriters in an impromptu Q&A at the hallway of the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Those types of guys made it easy for me,” said Watson, referring to his new teammates after SMB’s nail-biting 107-103 victory over Ginebra in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The 6-foot-5 Watson debuted with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting with 17 rebounds in 39 minutes despite a two-day preparation following his call-up as replacement to the unproductive Terik Bridgeman.
Watson said it wasn’t just him, crediting his SMB teammates for backing him up in a key win that improved the franchise’s record to 5-3, moving the Beermen into a tie for fourth to fifth places with the TNT KaTropa.
Arwind Santos, the league MVP in 2013, came off the bench to add 23 points, Chris Ross contributed 20 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals, Alex Cabagnot had 16, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and reigning three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Must have been an invigorating experience being around Watson.
The former Ball State University, made his presence felt early after San Miguel grabbed a 30-16 advantage at the end of the opening period. A three-pointer by Cabagnot gave the Beermen their biggest lead, 59-33, early in the third.
With the crowd behind it, Ginebra rallied by trimming the deficit to 101-93 after Santos was called for a goaltending violation on a three-point shot by Tenorio with 1:10 left. But Cabagnot had a jump shot to put SMB up, 103-93, with 54.1 seconds to play.
According to Watson, the way Ginebra rallied was a testament to how great the Kings are as a team, especially with 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, 6-foot-10 forward Japeth Aguilar and import Justin Brownlee.
“It was a tough game. They’re a great team, they’re tall and they’re big,” said Watson.
But the Beermen had Watson.
A native of Detroit, Watson is fresh from a stint in Israel where he led Hapoel to the championship. He hopes to do the same with SMB as the team guns for a third straight title that would complete the league’s version of a Triple Crown.
Watson said that he knows about the PBA since there had been offers for him to play here since 2013.
“I’ve been studying (the PBA through the internet). I’ve want to play in this league the past four years. But every team I think kind of passed up on me… they (SMB) finally gave me a shot,” said Watson, who vowed to make the most out of the golden opportunity.
“I know they’re going for a Grand Slam, I’m just happy they brought me here,” Watson said.
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