by Tito S. Talao
Manila, Philippines – After picking himself up from a fall the night before, San Mig Super Coffee coach Tim Cone was not about to take another embarrassing tumble.
The Mixers held three-time champion Talk ‘N Text scoreless in the last 2:24 of their knockout game last night to advance to the semifinals of the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup, 90-82, at the Cuneta Astrodome.
San Mig will meet Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in an anticipated jam-packed best-of-7 series starting tomorrow.
Cone, a recipient during Saturday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association Awards at the Manila Hotel, tripped as he bounded up the stage. He rose quickly, however, and was all smiles when he accepted his citation trophy for tying the legendary Baby Dalupan’s record of 15 PBA championships.
He proved sure of footing this time.
After TNT forward Ranidel de Ocampo tied the game, 82-all, the Mixers, behind Mark Barroca (18 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) and Joe Devance, took control as the Tropang Texters extinguished their remaining gasps by misfiring on desperation 3-point shots, many by recent addition Nino Canaleta.
“Them getting in the penalty changed the game for them,” said Cone, who started the conference 0-3 and 1-5. “They couldn’t pressure us anymore. And we got a secret weapon tonight in Justin [Melton]. He was really the key for us, giving us a new dimension.”
That included hitting 4 of 7 from three-point range.
A triple by PJ Simon, whose heartbreaking misses in Game 2 helped set up the do-or-die, gave San Mig a 77-75 edge with5:14 remaining. And although the Texters managed to level on De Ocampo’s trey, the defending champions never got back the lead.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the Petron Blaze Boosters for the next two weeks rests rest with the rise or fall of one man – 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo.
Fajardo will be the center of attraction when the E-Painters and the Boosters kick off their best-of-seven semis at 8 tonight at the MOA Arena, reprising their Final Four dance in the 2013 Governors Cup.
“June Mar is our biggest concern because of his size,” said ROS coach Yeng Guaio, who will rotate undersized “big men” Beau Belga and JR Quinahan, both trained to shoot 3-pointers, and 6-foot-7 rookie Raymond Almazon on the hulking Fajardo.
Rain or Shine, seeded second in the quarterfinals, advanced by beating Globalport, 106-96, in the playoffs while Petron swept Barako Bull in their best-of-3 series to arrange the rematch with the team it beat, 3-1, the last time out.
The E-Painters have quenched their thirst for revenge earlier, having snapped the Boosters’ 7-game winning start, 99-95, in overtime last Dec. 21 on the way to a franchise-setting victory spree.
“Our work is cut out for us because we’re up against the league’s hottest team,” said Petron coach Gee Abanilla, who served as Guiao’s assistant during their Red Bull days.
“We have to be prepared both mentally and physically. As a team we have to raise the level of intensity.”
Guiao had consistently downplayed the hottest team tag.
“Hottest heads siguro,” he said in reference to the number of warnings and technicals the E-Painters usually incur in the course of their intense and extra-aggressive play.
SAN MIG SUPER COFFEE 90 – Barroca 18, Devance 14, Pingris 13, Melton 12, Simon 10, Mallari 8, Yap 8, Sangalang 7, De Ocampo 0, Reavis 0.
TALK N’ TEXT 82 – De Ocampo 22, Castro 15, Canaleta 13, Seigle 8, Alapag 6, Williams 5, Fonacier 5, Carey 5, Reyes R. 3, Aban 0, Peek 0, Reyes J. 0, Baclao 0.
Quarters: 20-21, 42-40, 61-60, 90-82