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PBA: San Mig guns for title; Rain or Shine fights for dear life

Paul Lee and James Yap

by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – When San Mig Super Coffee entered the best-of-seven championship series, there were doubts whether the Mixers have enough gas left after surviving a grueling seven-game semifinal showdown with Barangay Ginebra and facing a well-rested opponent in Rain or Shine.

Even San Mig coach Tim Cone had his reservations if his team has the energy to win it all after losing Game 1 in stunning fashion.

Three games later, the Mixers are on cusp of glory after taking a commanding 3-1 lead following a 93-90 victory last Friday.

The Mixers can claim their 11th franchise title if they beat the Elasto Painters in Game 5 of the 2014 PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The game between San Mig and Rain or Shine is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. with an expected mammoth crowd hoping to witness the crowning of a new All-Filipino Cup champion after Talk ’N Text won the last three editions.

But the Mixers are expected to grind it out without the energetic forward Marc Pingris.

Pingris is still feeling uneasy after being hit in the right eye by JR Quinahan in the third quarter.

With or without Pingris, Cone knows they have to be on their toes as he expects Rain or Shine to do everything to foil the party.

“It’s been an incredibly tight series and we’ve been fortunate to win the last two games down the stretch. It could have gone either way,” said Cone after San Mig won Game 2 (80-70) and Game 3 (77-76).

Cone is also out to make history as he tries to break the league’s all-time record for most championships by a coach.

The American mentor who has spent almost his entire life in the country is currently tied at 15 with his idol, the great Baby Dalupan.

Mark Barroca scored 10 of his 17 points in the final quarter, including two free throws with 12.4 seconds left that gave San Mig a 93-90 lead. With no timeout left, Lee, who scored 28 points and made 5-of-10 triples, rimmed out a game-tying three-pointer in the final play of the game.

Only three teams have been able to win a seven-game series after being down 3-1.

It only happened once in a championship series when Robert Jaworski’s Ginebra San Miguel came back to beat Shell for the 1991 First Conference title.

Cone understands that anything can happen as he experienced losing a 3-1 advantage when his former team Alaska lost to Purefoods in the semifinals of the 2006 Philippine Cup.

Talk ’N Text was the last to come back from 3-1 to win a series, defeating Petron Blaze in the 2012 Philippine Cup semifinals.

The last team to force a Game 7 is B-Meg under Cone versus Rain or Shine, but the Elasto Painters went on to win the Governors’ Cup title.

Even if his team is down, Rain or Shine mentor Yeng Guiao is still confident, although he acknowledges it will take a lot of effort from his players if they want to stay in the hunt for a championship.

“It’s a tough loss. But again we’re not giving this series up until it’s over. We’ll try and get back into the series. Definitely not giving this up,” said Guiao, who is eyeing his seventh PBA title but first in an all-Filipino tournament. “We just didn’t get the breaks late in the game.”

“It’s not over, and we’ll comeback stronger on Sunday,” added Guiao.

Lee, who has averaged 25.5 the last two games of the series, will again try to keep his aggressive play he must get help from other teammates, particularly Jeffrei Chan who has struggled in the finals series. Other players expected to step up are Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, Larry Rodriguez, Jervy Cruz, Ryan Araña, Gabe Norwood, Jireh Ibanes and even rookie Raymond Almazan.

As for Quiñahan, he reiterated that what happened was an accident.

“Hindi ko talaga sinasadya. Player din naman ako, alam ko ‘yung pakiramdam. Aksidente ‘yung nangyari, ‘yung bola ang habol ko, kaso tinamaan siya ng kamay ko. Noong una nga hindi ko alam na ako pala ang nakatama, kala ko si (Rafi ) Reavis kasi tatlo kaming magre-rebound e,” said Quiñahan.

“Kung magkita kami before Game 5, mag-apologize ako sa kanya para mawala ‘yung pakiramdam n’ya na sinadya ko,” he added.