MARK Barroca provided the endgame heroics in a 79-73 San Mig Coffee win over Meralco as the Mixers earned a return trip to the PBA Governors Cup Finals Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The 5-foot-10 Barroca pulled off a key steal against Mike Cortez and then scored on an unmolested layup on a Marcus Blakely assist late in Game 4 of the best-of-five series played before a crowd of 8,000.
Blakely then sealed the win – and the series – when he went two-of-two from the foul line in the final nine seconds for the marginal score.
The Mixers won the series, 3-1.
“We always didn’t make things easy. We allowed them (Bolts) to come back, but that just goes to show how much fighting spirit Meralco has,” said winning coach Tim Cone, whose Mixers are in their 24th Finals appearance.
San Mig held a 71-60 lead with under nine minutes to play when the Bolts made their final stand behind walking-wounded import Mario West.
The 6-foot-4 West, playing through through a sprained AC (acromioclavicular) joint on his right shoulder, willed the Bolts back with repeated attacks to the basket to push them to within 73-75 with 41 seconds to go.
But the Mixers, runner-up to Rain or Shine in this same conference last season, proved steadier in the clutch as Barroca scored inside after finding himself alone underneath when the Bolts decided to double on Blakely.
“Coach Ryan (Gregorio) gave us a really good game tonight. He outcoached me tonight. But we advance and they don’t. Tough for them but they really played great in the series,” added Cone, who is
gunning for his 15th league title that would tie him with the legendary Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan for the most championships won by a coach.
The Bolts gave everything they can in the series as they controlled the boards for the first time in four games, 51-43.
West managed to shrug off the pain as he led the Bolts with 22 points and 17 rebounds, his best performance in the defense-oriented series.
Blakely paced the Mixers with 23 points, 19 boards, and five steals.
San Mig will play the winner of the other semis pairing between Petron and Rain or Shine in the best-of-seven Finals.
San Mig (79) -- Blakely 23, Yap 19, Pingris 16, Barroca 7, Mallari 4, Devance 4, Acuna 3, Simon 3, Reavis 0.
Meralco (73) -- West 22, Cardona 13, Hugnatan 13, Ross 9, Dillinger 6, Salvacion 6, Cortez 4, Hodge 0, Wilson 0.
Quarterscores: 27-16; 45-38; 66-56; 79-73.