Respect is earned in a battlefield that has become a witness to an epic and well-fought series between equally formidable warriors.
The triumphant Bay Area has nothing but respect to the gallant and defeated San Miguel especially after it needed to squeeze every little inch of strength and guts just to come through with the hard-earned series win.
“Three games by two points. I don't think I've been in a series and a game in a long time that was like that. I mean three of the four games are at the last second, incredible,” said Dragons head coach Brian Goorjian, who heaved a huge sigh of relief after his wards escaped with a 94-92 win in another cardiac finish.
Outside Game 2 which Bay Area won convincingly, 114-95, the other three games were all wild and down-the-wire finishes. And the Dragons suffered both ends of the sticks in Games 1 and 3 before coming away with the series win in Game 4.
Bay Area escaped by the skin of its teeth in the first game, 103-102, on a layup at the buzzer from Kobey Lam before SMB returned the favor in the third game with a 98-96 triumph on a late triple from Simon Enciso to fend elimination and live to fight for another day.
The Beermen had the chance to repeat it and win it in the final possession except that the results were entirely different this time around.
They had their chances. Two triple attempts from the usually cold-blooded Marcio Lassiter and CJ Perez and a short stab from June Mar Fajardo that could have sent the game to extra period. None of those found the bottom of the net – allowing the Dragons to make a historic trip to the Finals.
“Nothing but respect for ownership, coaching staff and players and the adjustments that the coach made during that series on Andrew on the post up double teams on the switching on the on-balls that was finals about and he was hell of a pro,” said Goorjian.
Just like in the two close wins of Bay Area, two names were called upon by Goorjian and delivered in the big moments. Lam delivered the first triple that shoved the Dragons ahead before Andrew Nicholson buried what turned out to be the dagger.
Nicholson, an NBA veteran and the undisputed leader of the young Chinese team, delivered big in the closeout with 42 points and 21 rebounds – the man who made the difference in the series according to Goorjian.
“When I played Myles and every single day we practiced he (Nicholson) lifted weights. He help the young kids, staying engaged if he was just on the side and watching while we were playing and now asked upon him, there’s now way he could have delivered,” the veteran coach said of Nicholson.
“Basically, we rode his back this series on the ball, post feed and he had the big boy (Fajardo) defensively so really proud of him and again all of these are great to the development of my young Chinese.”