Lightning does strike twice.
San Mig Coffee booked the last Final Four slot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup last night by taking the same route it did last year in ousting a gallant Meralco side, 90-82, at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The defending champion Mixers held the Bolts scoreless in the final 7:58 and, just like they did last season, swept the Bolts in the final two games of their best-of-three quarterfinal series to advance opposite tournament No. 1 Alaska.
It will be a best-of-five against the Aces starting Saturday and the Mixers have a perfect record against Alaska ever since Tim Cone left that team to join San Mig close to two seasons ago.
“I think it’s completely different because it was more of a grind-it-out, defensive-type of a series,” Cone said when asked if it was déjà vu. “They seem to have gotten tired in the end, especially (Eric) Dawson (the Meralco import).”
Defense was what won Game 3 for the Mixers, who trailed, 79-82, after Chris Ross beat the shot clock with a booming triple heading into the 7:58, as San Mig bottled up practically every Meralco attempt from thereon.
Denzel Bowles was big as usual, returning in the second half after being stitched up near the right eyebrow, with Marc Pingris providing solid defensive help and PJ Simon and Marc Barroca striking when needed.
No local was bigger for Cone than former two-time MVP James Yap, who played through a bad back to notch 20 points in 30 minutes.
Pingris had 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists and broke down when interviewed by the television panel after winning Player of the Game honors.
Dawson, the most prolific import in the lot, finished with 24 points but was held scoreless in the final quarter. Meralco hit just seven points in the final 12 minutes with Mac Cardona, who had 19, also failing to score in the payoff frame.
SAN MIG COFFEE 90—Bowles 23, Yap 20, Pingris 14, Simon 11, Devance 9, Barroca 7, Mallari 6, Najorda 0, Reavis 0, De Ocampo 0.
MERALCO 82—Dawson 24, Cardona 19, Ross 13, Hugnatan 6, Salvacion 6, Hodge 5, Manuel 4, Vanlandingham 3, Reyes 2, Buenafe 0, Artadi 0.
Quarters: 28-27, 53-46, 75-75, 90-82