MANILA, Philippines—Head coach Tim Cone held his breath as Cyrus Baguio—uncontested—uncorked a three-pointer from the right wing with the game on the line.
Fortunately for San Mig Coffee, Baguio’s shot rimmed out as the Mixers survived Alaska, 84-83, Saturday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Cyrus hitting the shot in the end, I thought that was it,” Cone said in a sigh of relief. “I thought that was going to be the game winner.”
But instead, San Mig Coffee pulled out its eighth straight win over Alaska under Cone’s watch.
“Well it doesn’t get any exciting than that on a Saturday night… it was a great battle between two teams that played desperate (to win). They did because they want to keep the first place and they wanted to break the streak against us,” added Cone.
It appeared Cone’s winning run on his former team was about to end after prized rookie Calvin Abueva, who unleashed 20 of his career-high 27 points in the second half to go along with 11 rebounds and two blocks, completed a three-point play off a foul from Rafi Reavis that put the Aces on top, 83-82, with 44.4 ticks left.
Marc Pingris, who went on bruising battle with Abueva inside, answered back for the Mixers, who upped their mark to 5-5, on the low block with a power move inside over the rookie to give his team the lead, 84-83, with under 30 seconds left.
Alaska had another crack at the basket and a chance to retake the lead with Abueva drawing a shooting foul on Pingris with 12 seconds remaining.
But the game would end in controversial fashion with referee Jess Ferrer blowing the whistle and call a double lane violation just before Abueva, who missed his first freebie and made the second before it got waved off, attempted his second charity.
The game would have gone into overtime had Abueva’s second free throw was counted but instead the Aces, who battled back from 10 points down with 3:50 left, took their third loss in 10 games.
“The call was made before the shot and in a game like this there are some calls you don’t make. I mean it just decided the outcome of the game right there,” said an irate Alaska coach Luigi Trillo. “The thing is you have to wait for the shot to happen then you make the call, it’s a free throw so why make the call? Why blow the whistle before the shot?”
“It’s just hard. We came back from 10 points down, I hope commissioner can see that and we’re looking for justice tonight,” Trillo added. “We’re looking for justice for that. I think they tried to file a protest. We earned the right to play into overtime.”
Denzel Bowles led the way for the Mixers with 30 points, 23 rebounds, five assists and two blocks while Mark Barroca had half of his 16 points in the fourth period.