THE backcourt tandem of Alex Mallari and Mark Barroca led San Mig Coffee’s endgame tear as the Mixers regained momentum in their PBA Governors Cup semifinals series against the Meralco Bolts following a 94-87 win in Game Three on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-4 Mallari fired 23 points, including seven inside the final three minutes to help the Mixers turn a precarious one-point lead to an 84-79 advantage. The rookie went 9-for-13 from the floor.
Barroca then finished off the job by hitting a long jumper with under two minutes left before making two pressure-packed free throws in the final 5.1 seconds to seal the deal and give the Mixers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
San Mig can book a return trip to the Finals of the season-ending tournament with a win on Sunday also at the Big Dome.
“Alex was awesome tonight. He was getting to the rim, and that’s when he’s at his best. He was doing a good job defending Jared Dillinger, who was a thorn in our side,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone after the hard-earned win.
Another big break for San Mig was the departure of Meralco import Mario West midway through the second half after going down with a right shoulder injury at the 4:27 mark of the third period.
The 6-foot-4 West drew a hard foul from San Mig forward Joe Devance just as he was bringing the ball at mid-court.
West held on to his right shoulder as he grimaced in pain when play was halted. Team doctors said the import may have suffered an acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprain. He is set to undergo MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) on Saturday morning.
But even without West, the Bolts still fought valiantly behind veteran guard Mike Cortez, who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the second half.
The Mixers however, just kept pounding the ball inside as the Bolts failed to keep up with San Mig in the end in West’s absence.
“Everyone thought it’s easy, but you can see the tension dripping with the team having an import. Because you see, they (Bolts) were able to grab some momentum,” said Cone. “But in the long run, we were fortunate that Mario went out. Then, we hit some big free throws down the stretch and were able to make some stops.”
San Mig (94) -- Mallari 23, Blakely 21, Barroca 18, Yap 13, Devance 7, Pingris 4, Reavis 7, Acuna 2, Simon 2.
Meralco (87) -- Cortez 15, West 13, Wilson 13, Hodge 11, Hugnatan 11, Dillinger 10, Salvacion 9, Cardona 3, Reyes 2, Guevarra 0, Ross 0.
Quarterscores: 17-22; 44-42; 66-64; 94-87.