PETER June Simon broke out of a scoring funk, combining with import James Mays in a run that led San Mig past Alaska, 79-65, on Saturday and into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The veteran Simon, who averaged just 7.0 points during the first two games of the best-of-three quarterfinal series, erupted for 21 points, hitting one jumper after another to punish the Aces' defense.
Joining the fray was the 6-8 Mays, who after an anemic Game Two performance, had 17 points and 24 rebounds in the Game Three win that kept alive the Mixers' quest for a third successive championship.
The 2-1 win in the best-of-three series led San Mig to a seventh straight semifinal appearance under coach Tim Cone, who, since his arrival at the start of the 2012 season, has given the franchise three championships - including the last two.
The win also ended Alaska's bid to defend the only title it has won in the post-Cone era.
“To be absolutely honest, I don’t think I’ll be here because Alaska’s just playing too high of a level to be able to beat them twice in a row,” said Cone after a heated, highly physical game that saw officials and coaches of both teams figure in a verbal spat at the sidelines.
Cone said he was happy to see his veteran-laden team play with a lot of composure even though the Mixers have battled injuries to players like Marc Pingris, James Yap, Justin Melton, and Mays.
“You know, you go to the playoffs a lot. We get to Game Sevens and Game Fives and there are knockout game situations,” he said. “But these guys kinda have a blueprint on what’s successful for them.
"So they don’t really have that deep anxiety or deep panic coming to this game,” added the PBA’s all-time winning coach.
San Mig’s defense held the deposed champion to just 35.5 percent field goal.
JV Casio accounted for four of the team’s five three-point shots in the game, though it took him 13 attempts in the game. Rob Dozier, the reigning Best Import, led the Aces with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
San Mig 79 - Simon 21, Mays 17, Barroca 14, Pingris 10, Sangalang 6, Devance 5, Mallari 4, Melton 2, Reavis 0, Yap 0.
Alaska 65 - Dozier 23, Casio 14, Jazul 8, Hontiveros 7, Espinas 5, Baguio 4, Thoss 2, Manuel 2, Reyes 0, Dela Cruz 0, Abueva 0.
Quarterscores: 21-15, 35-27, 57-45, 79-65