ONE championship campaign will continue while another will end when Alaska Milk and San Mig Super Coffee collide in the deciding Game Three of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal series on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces, trying to defend their title in the import-spiced conference, and the Mixers, aiming for a third straight crown, meet in the 5:15 p.m. tipoff, with the winner advancing to the semifinals.
The Aces took Game One, 86-77, but the Mixers forced a sudden death with a hard-earned 70-65 victory in Game Two last Wednesday.
History appears to be on the Mixers side, having overcome one-game deficits in the last two quarterfinal editions of the mid-season tournament to go deep in the playoffs.
And Mixers coach Tim Cone, whose team snapped a four game-skid with the Game Two win, is just hoping his banged-up roster can again pull this one off.
“I’m proud of my guys, just staying in there and grinding and pulling out a win,” the league’s winningest mentor said. “Whether we can do it again, I don’t know. I hope so.”
After pointing out the free-throw shooting disparity in Game Two, where the Mixers had 35 attempts compared to just 10 by the Aces, Alaska coach Luigi Trillo has called for fair officiating, but is well aware the reigning champion should not be affected by the calls.
“That (disparity) worries me. Hopefully calls are consistent,” Trillo said in a chat with Spin.ph on Friday. “But at the same time, we have to play beyond the missed calls.”
Except for Dondon Hontiveros, who had 16 points, the Aces’ top locals in Cyrus Baguio, Jayee Casio, Sonny Thoss, Calvin Abueva, and RJ Jazul failed to reach double-figure in scoring in Game Two.
Alaska's defense was solid, however, as it held the Mixers to just 24 points in the first half.
“You got to play both sides of the floor well,” Trillo said. “You can’t just rely on defense and expect to win. You got to execute well.”
The coaching battle will also be put to the spotlight with Cone, the Triangle Offense preacher, again facing the man who succeeded him at Alaska.
“Coach Luigi is really familiar with what I like to do. It’s hard to pull surprises when we play each other,” Cone said of Trillo, with whom he worked with for more than a decade at Alaska.
“We play similar and I’ve been fortunate enough to be with him for twelve years,” Trillo said. “I’ve learned a lot from him and that’s the advantage that probably I may have.”
Still, the Mixers, bannered by Marc Pingris, James Yap, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, and Joe Devance, will be a tough nut to crack.
“They’re a tough team to knock out,” Trillo said. “They’re going for their three-peat. Guys obviously seem healthy. More than that, they’re playing with fire.”
The two-day rest prior to Game Three should also augurs well for hurting San Mig import James Mays, who is nursing a back injury.