Mixers short-circuit Bolts, gain title slot
Marqus Blakely fired 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds and James Yap added 16 as the San Mig Coffee Mixers closed out the Meralco Bolts, 79-73, in their best-of-five semifinal series last night to again reach the Finals of the PBA Governors’ Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Marc Pingris, who does most of the dirty work inside, also shone with 16 points and six offensive boards for the Mixers, who appeared to have sealed the outcome late in the fourth only to find themselves in a grind at crunchtime.
“They put us on the edge of our seats and we don’t want to be there,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone after they ended the series, 3-1. “It showed how much fighting spirit Meralco has.”
Mario West, Meralco’s never-say-die import, sprained his right shoulder in Game 3 and was doubtful coming into the game. But if he was in pain, he didn’t show it.
West scored 22 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, including a pair of shots when the Bolts narrowed a 10-point gap to just a single basket with just a minute left.
“I thought he (West) was just a decoy when he played in the first quarter,” said Cone, whose team lost three of their first four games before surging to the playoffs. “We didn’t expect to see him much but he played great.”
The Bolts actually gave themselves a chance to reverse the outcome but Chris Ross missed a crucial three-pointer and committed a costly defensive lapse in the end.
Ross helped out in a low-post matchup featuring West and Blakely with 23.2 seconds to go, but left Mark Barroca free underneath. In the next sequence, Ross misfired a three that could have changed the game’s outcome.
“(Meralco) Coach Ryan (Gregorio) coached better than I did but I have more horses,” said Cone on his third Finals stint with the Mixers and 26th overall in the league.
He will now have a shot at tying Baby Dalupan’s all-time best coaching record of 15 championships when the Mixers go up either against Rain or Shine or Petron Blaze in the title series.
Meanwhile, the Painters shoot for the equalizer tonight against a Petron side that will be going for another crack at the Finals, also at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I guess we’re just trying to prolong the series and try to make a series out of it,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao after his Elasto Painters avoided the broom by winning Game 3, 92-87, Saturday.
“But if we win again on Monday [today], then we would already have a serious shot at the Finals.”
Game 4 of the best-of-five semifinal series is set at 7:15 p.m. with the Boosters still holding a 2-1 lead.
SAN MIG 79— Blakely 23, Yap 19, Pingris 16, Barroca 7, Mallari 4, Devance 4, Acuna 3, Simon 3, Reavis 0.
MERALCO 73—West 22, Cardona 13, Hugnatan 13, Ross 9, Dillinger 6, Salvacion 6, Cortez 4, Hodge 0, Wilson 0.
Quarters: 27-16, 45-38, 66-56, 79-73
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.