JOE Devance came through with the big baskets down the stretch as San Mig Coffee broke open a close game on the way to an 83-73 over Meralco at the start of their PBA Governors Cup semifinal series on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In a game where both imports struggled offensively, San Mig locals led by Devance, James Yap and rookie Alex Mallari provided the difference when the Mixers made the most telling run in a game the Bolts surprisingly dominated almost three-fourths of the way.
Devance shone brightest among the three, hitting two three-pointers for the last of his team-high 17 points during a surge that opened a 79-69 lead for San Mig entering the final two minutes.
“We just kind of hung around, hung around and hung around till we got to get something going and till we got some momentum towards the end of the third quarter and carried that momentum to the fourth quarter,” Cone said as his team took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Cone admitted that the Mixers were emotionally and physically drained after being dragged into a knockout match by the Alaska Aces in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Worse, the Mixers appeared affected by the news that sophomore swingman Allein Maliksi would more likely be out for the next eight months due to a partial tear on his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) on his left knee.
"We’re still emotionally drained in that Alaska series, and physical too that’s why we didn’t start the game with focus and lacked the energy,” he said.
“The injury of Allein brought us down a little bit because he was really performing at a high level for us so losing him was truly a devastating blow.”
Maliksi’s absence, though, gave Yap the opportunity to rise to the occasion again, combining with Devance in the second half that allowed them to come back from a 10-point third quarter deficit en route to taking a 57-55 lead entering the final period.
Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said they will have to revisit their game plan against a Mixers side whose array of gunners caused problems on their defense in the second half.
“With Devance and Alex (Mallari) hitting from the outside, that speaks volume of the kind of roster they have because our defense was prepared for James and PJ (Simon),” said Gregorio.
Blakely was held down to just 15 points as he took just eight attempts, making four.
His Meralco counterpart, Mario West was held to just nine points, the first time he failed to score in double figures as he shot just three-of-16 from the field overall.
San Mig Coffee 83 - Devance 17, Blakely 15, Yap 15, Mallari 12, Pingris 8, Barroca 7, Simon 7, Reavis 2, Acuna 0, Najorda 0.
Meralco 73 - Hodge 19, Cortez 12, Wilson 10, West 9, Reyes 6, Cardona 6, Hugnatan 6, Dillinger 2, Salvacion 2, Ross 1.
Quarterscores: 18-22, 35-38, 57-55, 83-73