Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants' shooting guard James Yap capped an impressive season by winning the Best Player of the Conference award before helping his team demolish a resilient Alaska Aces to clinch the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup title last night, March 3, at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.
The sweet-shooting cager garnered a total of 1,380 votes to edge out Alaska's Willie Miller (925), Sta. Lucia Realty's Kelly Williams (476), San Miguel Beer's Arwind Santos (457), Alaska's Joe Devance (397), and Talk N' Text's Mark Cardona (245).
Yap, who won Most Valuable Player (MVP) honor in the 2005-2006 season, clinched the award despite failing to figure prominently in the statistical points category. Yap, however, earned the nod of fellow players, media representatives, and league officials to beat conference scoring leader Williams in the final voting.
Many observers attributed Yap's on-court leadership this season—steering Purefoods to victory against tough semi-finals opponents Rain or Shine and San Miguel Beer—as a huge plus to why he was chosen to take home the Best Player of the Conference trophy.
Yap's scoring average also increased noticeably during the best-of-seven title series against Alaska, tallying 23.3 points per game compared to his 16.3 average in the semi-finals versus San Miguel Beer.
Last night, the former University of the East Red Warriors standout derailed Alaska's late-game rally by drilling a three-pointer with 1:48 remaining in the final canto to seal the victory.
FOR TITA CORY. James dedicated his BPC award to his teammates and the entire Purefoods coaching staff. But the 6'3" Negros Occidental native also offered the prestigious individual honor to his late mother-in-law, former Philippine President Corazon "Cory" Aquino.
"Para sa kanya ito, I'm sure masayang-masaya siya para sa akin," Yap said after the pre-game ceremony. The star cager is married to television host-actress Kris Aquino,
During the time when Cory was stricken with colon cancer until the time she succumbed to the dreaded illness on August 1, 2009, James was very vocal in paying tribute to the ex-president by dedicating every ball game in her honor.
The former president was said to be extremely proud of her son-in-law when he was chosen to represent the country as part of the Powerade-Team Pilipinas that competed in the William Jones Cup in Taiwan last year.
Cory was also described as the "peacemaker" every time Kris and James would have a misunderstanding.
"Nanonood siya every game," James told ABS-CBN News during Cory's funeral. "Di ko talaga makalimutan pumasok kami sa finals, pinagro-rosary niya ako. Kaya sobrang mami-miss ko si Mom."
That all-out support given to James by Cory in the past is now being continued by those she left behind. In Game 3 of the recently concluded championship series, Kris watched the game at the Araneta Coliseum together with her sisters and Valenzuela councilor Shalani Soledad, the girlfriend of presidential candidate Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino.