SAN Mig Coffee held bitter rival Meralco scoreless in the last eight minutes to pull off a heart-stopping 90-82 victory on Wednesday and set up a dream clash with Mixers coach Tim Cone's former team Alaska in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After squandering a 15-point first half lead and watching the Bolts unleash a scorching rally to take the driver’s seat, 82-79 on a shot-clock-beating triple by Chris Ross, the Mixers buckled down to work on the defensive end to keep their title-retention hopes alive.
The Bolts, who appeared to have tired out in the end, closed the game with 11 consecutive misses along with four turnovers. The Mixers, meantime, unleashed a telling 11-0 run to close out the match and win the best-of-three quarterfinal series, 2-1.
“It seemed they got a little bit tired in the end, especially (Eric) Dawson, a great import. We defended well, and he missed them (shots). It really came down to the last eight possessions,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone.
Cone admitted his big man Marc Pingris defied him during the second half after choosing to guard Dawson at some point in the final period.
“But he (Pingris) did a great job. Though he wasn’t supposed to guard Dawson, that (defensive stance) was great because it allowed Denzel to patrol the paint a little bit and keep Denzel fresher in the end. So it was a brilliant coaching decision by Marc Pingris,” added Cone, smiling.
Cone also praised superstar forward James Yap, who played his best game in the series despite a nagging back problem, finishing with 20 points on nine-of-17 shooting along with three rebounds and three assists.
Bowles, who sustained a cut on his right eyelid midway in the second period, led the Mixers with 23 points, 11 boards and three blocks, while Pingris added 14, seven rebounds and five assists in 43 minutes of play.
The Bolts, who took the series-opener before losing the last two games, drew 24 points, 16 boards and five assists from Dawson, while Macmac Cardona added 19. Chris Ross, chipped in 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
San Mig Coffee 90 - Bowles 23, Yap 20, Pingris 14, Simon 11, Devance 9, Barroca 7, Mallari 6, Najorda 0, Reavis 0, De Ocampo 0
Meralco 82 - Dawson 24, Cardona 19, Ross 13, Hugnatan 6, Salvacion 6, Hodge 5, Manuel 4, Vanlandingham 3, Reyes 2, Buenafe 0, Artadi 0
Quarterscores: 28-27, 53-46, 75-75, 90-82