Mixers ease out Bolts, reach finals
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATED) San Mig Coffee, the PBA Governors Cup losing finalist last year, is back in the title playoff with another opportunity to be on mountaintop at season’s end.
Marqus Blakely and Mark Barroca conspired for a big basket on a crucial defensive lapse by Chris Ross at the finish and the Mixers fended off the Meralco Bolts, 79-73, to grab the first berth in the best-of-seven titular series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Foiled in their sweep bid the last time out, the Petron Blaze Boosters take another shot at finishing off the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in Game Four of their own semis duel also at the Big Dome tonight.
Game Five, if necessary, is Wednesday over at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
“Either team is gonna be a tough matchup for us. Petron’s playing fluid, and Rain or Shine has its own brand of good basketball,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone.
Against the Bolts, Cone said they ended up on top “as we had more horses.”
“We’re in control with a 10-point lead almost throughout the fourth then we allowed them to get back,” he said.
The Mixers, who actually took control almost throughout, flirted with disaster at endgame but survived, thus gaining a return stint in the finale of the tourney the franchise has never won in a decade.
The Bolts had come to within a basket, 73-75, when Blakely spotted a defensive lapse by Ross. He dished off an assist to Barroca who converted a basket underneath to make it 77-73 with time down to 23.2 seconds.
Ross left Barroca open as he provided a double-teaming defense on Blakely.
After his crucial feed on Barroca, Blakely a little later grabbed a big offensive rebound and knocked in two charities as the Mixers secured a 24th finals in the history of their franchise.
The San Mig Coffee import outworked just everybody, delivering 23 points, 19 rebounds, five steals, two assists and one block against three errors in 43 minutes of play.
Mario West endured a shoulder injury sustained in Game Three and spearheaded Meralco’s challenge with 22 markers and 17 boards.
West, Macmac Cardona and Reynel Hugnatan fuelled Meralco’s endgame charge that got the team back in the thick of the fight after falling behind by as many as 16 at 46-62.
The Mixers enjoyed double-digit spreads right in the opening quarter as the Bolts started flat, unable to score a basket in the first four minutes of the game.
West, obviously trying to protect his injured shoulder, scored his first basket with already 14 minutes into the contest.