Meralco led from start to finish in sweeping past a relaxed San Mig Coffee side, 87-77, last night at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, to seal the No. 4 ranking in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs that start on Wednesday.
Mac Cardona and Reynel Hugnatan tossed in 15 each as the Bolts closed out their elimination round stint with an 8-6 card, tied with idle Alaska.
San Mig still finished at No. 2 despite the loss with a 10-4 card and the Mixers will be slugging it out with sister team Petron Blaze, needing to beat the Boosters just once to advance to the Final Four.
Talk ‘N Text, the No. 1 seed, will be paired with Air21, with the Texters also owning a twice-to-beat advantage.
As if to underscore their leading position, the Texters rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to repulse Barangay Ginebra, 87-80, in the second game.
The Tropang Texters dug deep to win a game they really didn’t need, closing out with a winning feeling and a 12-2 card heading into their playoff clash with Air21 on Thursday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ginebra, which led, 58-41 in the third, finished with a 7-7 card and No. 6 seed.
“Being the No. 2 seed, this game was a luxury for San Mig,” said Meralco’s Ryan Gregorio. “For us, we just wanted to find ways to win this one. Luckily, we did.”
Meralco will battle No. 5 Alaska in a best-of-three series this Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao with the Gin Kings facing No. 3 Rain or Shine.
The Elasto Painters, the reigning Governors’ Cup champions, seem to be the most dangerous team in the lot after welcoming back last year’s top rookie Paul Lee on Wednesday.
Peter June Simon paced the Mixers with 19 points and Aldrech Ramos had 15.
But coach Tim Cone did not use former two-time MVP James Yap while experimenting on several combinations which could help him in the playoffs.
“We really wanted to put our spirits to the test in terms of finishing the elims at No. 4,” Gregorio said. “This is the best (elims) finish for our young franchise. Now, as No. 4, our minds are focused for the quarterfinals (series) against Alaska.”
“There’s no such thing as a no-bearing game (for us),” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black, who got 24 points from Jason Castro.
MERALCO 87—Cardona 15, Hugnatan 15, Mercado 12, Borboran 9, Buenafe 9, Reyes 8, Sharma 7, Hodge 5, Salvacion 3, Nabong 2, Ross 2, Bulawan 0.
SAN MIG COFFEE 77—Simon 19, Ramos 15, Barroca 8, Pingris 8, De Ocampo 8, Gaco 5, Devance 4, Intal 3, Ponferada 2, Villanueva 2, Gonzales 2, Reavis 1, Pacana 0.
Quarters: 19-15, 45-39, 68-61, 87-77
TALK ‘N TEXT 87—Castro 24, Peek 16, Williams 13, Fonacier 11, Reyes 8, Alapag 6, De Ocampo 4, Aban 3, Dillinger 2, Ferriols 0, Carey 0.
GINEBRA 80—Caguioa 20, Tenorio 19, Raymundo 10, Maierhofer 4, Mamaril 4, Hatfield 4, Ellis 3, Labagala 3, Helterbrand 3, Taha 2, Jensen 2, Maliksi 2, Espiritu 2, Wilson 2.
Quarters: 23-22, 38-49, 68-73, 87-80