Yap, Simon give take on first face-off since PBL days

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--The last time James Yap and PJ Simon faced off in an actual game was back in the 2004 PBL Platinum Cup Finals, where Simon and the Hapee franchise, then known as Fash, defeated Yap's Welcoat team, both known to be fabled squads in the defunct developmental league, in a full five-game series.

Yap would be drafted in the PBA by the Purefoods franchise that same year, while Simon, a fifth round pick by Sta. Lucia in the 2001 Draft before eventually making his pro debut in the MBA via the Davao Eagles, would join him right after his PBL stint, making up two-thirds of the renowned Purefoods "Big 3" that gave the club seven championships including the 2014 Grand Slam with Coach Tim Cone.

A Paul Lee trade later, however, Yap saw himself once again donning the kits of the Welcoat franchise, now in the top-tier cagefest, and on Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, he and Simon found themselves guarding each other again.

Simon once again walked away a victor over Yap as the Purefoods club downed the Welcoat squad, 99-91.

[Related Story: Lee, Star prevail over Yap, ROS in first match-up since trade]

However, Simon admitted to some reporters after the game that 12 years of being teammates with Yap is too long for him that he still had a weird feeling as if it was their first time against each other all over again.

"Para sa akin, napaka-awkward [na nagbabantayan kami]. Di ko ine-expect na darating ang araw na ito na magbabantayan kami sa PBA na magkaibang teams," said Simon.

Simon succeeded in checking Yap, limiting him to only nine points while getting 16 of his own, and he has Coach Chito Victolero to thank for.

"That is the game plan. Match-up ni PJ si James Yap," Victolero said.

Yap conceded and said, "Maganda yung game plan nila. Gusto nilang alisin yung bola sa akin. PJ Simon is still PJ Simon."

Despite being on-court foes, the friendship remains.

"Nag-good luck kami sa bawat isa. In-enjoy namin yung game na ito," Simon said in conclusion.

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