by Tito S. Talao
Manila, Philippines – San Mig Coffee’s Marqus Blakely has delivered the final compelling proof to his worthiness as Best Import of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Before a conference-record crowd of 21,319, Blakely scored a climactic 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and provided the two most critical defensive stops in Game 7 of the PLDT-Telpad Finals last night as the Mixers downed the Petron Blaze Boosters, 87-77, for their 10th franchise championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
His steal off an Elijah Millsap pass and ensuing fast break layup gave San Mig an 80-75 lead with two minutes left. Another defensive gem on Millsap in the closing seconds sealed the victory.
Of the four other Mixers in double figures, none stood higher than Marc Pingris, who also had 19 points, hauled down 17 rebounds, eight offensively, and blocked five shots in a performance eerily reminiscent of his spectacular show in the FIBA Asia Championship semifinal game against South Korea two months ago.
Pingris was unanimously named Papa John’s-PBA Press Corps Finals MVP with averages of 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.5 blocks.
San Mig coach Tim Cone claimed a milestone in his career.
“It’s incredibly humbling,” said Cone, who clinched his 15th career title to tie the legendary Baby Dalupan. “Just an incredible journey for me.”
Dalupan, unbeknownst to Cone, celebrated his 90th birthday just a week ago.
An eight-point lead in the fourth quarter by the Mixers was too much to overcome for the Boosters, who were mauled under the boards, 57-46, and choked by San Mig’s heavy defensive pressure all night long.
If not for their two-of-11 three-point shooting, the Mixers would have come out with a more comfortable halftime lead than 41-39.
But with Mark Barroca going 0 for 3, James Yap 0 for 2, and PJ Simon 1 for 3, San Mig had to compensate with a 56 percent field goal shooting (17 of 30) from within, collecting 16 points from the perimeter (to Petron’s 10) and 24 from inside the paint.
Marqus Blakely was four-of-six in two-pointers, Barroca, scoreless in Game 6 last Wednesday, four-of-seven, Marc Pingris four-of-six and Yap, interestingly, three-of-five, including an offensive rebound layup that broke a 35-all count in the second quarter.
The defense-dominated first half had five deadlock and two leadchanges, with neither team putting together runs longer than nine points. San Mig went on a 9-0 tear highlighted by a Joe Devance triple to open a 19-13 lead, but Petron came back with a six-point spurt to level at the end of 12 minutes, 19-all.
No San Mig player had more than 8 points as the Mixers chose to spread the offense around, taking turns in testing Petron’s match-up zone defense which accounted for the Mixers’ 40 percent shooting overall in the first half.
Junmar Fajardo led Petron with 12 points yet he struggled early from the line, missing four-of-six free throws. Elijah Millsap added 11 points but played just 20 of the first 24 minutes after picking up two quick fouls and eventually his third off a driving Simon with 65 seconds remaining.
Millsap would get whistled for his foul halfway in the third, leaving the Boosters without an import at the height of a torrid exchange where Petron took a 53-48 lead on back-to-back goal-tending calls on Pingris and Blakely.
After a 19-point first quarter and 22-point second, the two teams battled through a 24-point third, with Devance’s three-pointer beating the buzzer to give the Mixers a 65-61 lead going to the fourth.