SAN MIG COFFEE BEATS MERALCO IN BATTLE FOR NO. 2 SEED
MARQUS Blakely put the fitting finish to a battle between two highly-defensive teams by pulling off the biggest stop in San Mig Coffee’s 88-87 cliffhanger over Meralco Friday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Blakely’s block from behind of a potential game-winner by Mario West enabled the Mixers to preserve the win and claim the No. 2 seeding that carries with it a twice-to-beat advantage in the ensuing quarterfinals which begin Tuesday.
San Mig Coffee thus finished the eliminations phase with a fifth straight win for a 6-3 record, two games behind topnotcher Petron Blaze, while foiling Meralco’s own bid to cop the 2nd-best ranking.
Instead, the Bolts dropped to 5-4 and a tie with Rain or Shine, with the possibility of being caught by either or both Alaska and Barangay Ginebra for the remaining two slots with such an advantage in the last eight.
Any multiple tie would be resolved by the PBA quotient determining the outright quarters qualifier and a one-game playoff.
San Mig coach Tim Cone said tougher work lies ahead. “It’s nice to nestle into that No. 2 spot,” he admitted.
Aside from the last of his six blocks for the game, Blakely also did his part on the scoring end with 24 points that went well with his 13 rebounds.
PJ Simon also broke out of his shooting slump with a conference-high 20 points to make up for Allein Maliksi’s silent night. Maliksi, hottest among the local Mixers during their streak with 15 per game, was held to only five points before getting into foul trouble while trying to mark West.
Marc Pingris and James Yap also tried to contain West, but the latter still came through with a game-high 31 points despite a right thumb he injured as early as the last 4:12 of the first quarter.
Cliff Hodge also did his share with 19 points and so did John Wilson with 13, but Meralco still failed to follow up a fiery third quarter and also fell short in its bid to steal the game.
Back-to-back triples by Sunday Salvacion and Mike Cortez whittled what stood as an 86-81 San Mig Coffee lead to just 87-88 and Meralco’s hopes were fanned when West intercepted Rafi Reavis’ long inbounds relay, still about four seconds remaining.
But West did not see Blakely rushing in from behind to deflect the ball that landed well short just before the final buzzer.
“They’re a complete team. We’re lucky to be able to get through them,” noted Cone.
The Bolts gave credence to Cone’s words by fighting back from an early 12-point deficit and using the two middle quarters to lead by as much as 66-57, 4:30 left in the third period.
“Meralco’s No. 1 in defense for a reason,” said Cone. But his team ranks second and that also came to the fore.
After trimming the deficit to just six going to the final 12 minutes, it was San Mig Coffee’s turn to tighten up the noose which fueled a 14-4 surge. Simon scored five of his seven fourth quarter points then and Yap four of his total eight points. (NC)
San Mig Coffee 88 – Blakely 24, Simon 20, Mallari 8, Yap 8, Pingris 7, Barroca 6, Maliksi 5, Devance 5, Reavis 5, De Ocampo 0.
Meralco 87 – West 31, Hodge 19, Wilson 13, Reyes 6, Hugnatan 6, Salvacion 6, Cortez 4, Cardona 2, Guevarra 0, Ross 0, Allado 0.
Quarterscores: 34-24, 50-47, 64-70, 88-87
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