by Waylon Galvez
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7:15 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Petron Blaze (Game 4)
Manila, Philippines – For a team that started slow this conference, San Mig Coffee finished fast, taking the first championship berth in the conference it nearly won last season.
San Mig dictated the pace for most part of the game, but it still came down to the final moments and the Mixers had to withstand a late charge by the Meralco Bolts to post a 79-73 victory in Game 4 and close out their best-of-five semifinal series in the PBA Governors’ Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Mixers were up by 10 points, 74-64, with 2:44 left in the game.
However, the Bolts used an 8-1 run ignited by a three-pointer from Mark Cardona, while import Mario West made a layup and a pair of free throws. Reynel Hugnatan capped the run with a tip-in off his own missed shot that trimmed the deficit to 75-73 with 41.1 seconds left to play.
But a defensive lapse by Chris Ross when he tried to steal the leather from behind Marqus Blakely opened up Mark Barroca under the San Mig goal. Blakely fed Barroca, who easily scored a reverse layup for a 77-73 lead with 23.2 seconds to go.
Ross himself hammered the final nail when he tried to redeem himself by taking an ill-advised triple that was off.
With the win, the San Mig franchise clinched its 24th finals stint even as the Mixers eye their 10th overall title. San Mig will face either top seed Petron Blaze or defending champion Rain or Shine in the best-of-seven Finals.
Last season, the Elasto Painters stunned the heavy favored Mixers in seven games of the Finals in this same conference for their first franchise title.
“We don’t know how to make it easy, we always make it hard for ourselves,” said San Mig mentor Tim Cone, whose team opened the season-ending conference with a 0-2 record and were 1-3 after four games but managed to finish No. 2 with a 6-3 card going to the playoffs.
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