SAN Mig once again proved its championship pedigree on Friday night, outduelling Talk 'N Text, 93-87, in their do-or-die semifinal match in the PBA Governors Cup to keep alive its quest for a rare season grand slam.
Backed against the wall by a Talk 'N Text side that battled back from 0-2 down to force a Game Five, San Mig responded with grit on defense, unselfishness on offense, as well as poise and composure that can only be honed by years of playing together under the grinding pressure.
It helped, of course, that San Mig had players like Marqus Blakely and Marc Pingris who kept crashing the boards and scoring inside without let-up, as well as a James Yap who once again lived up to his 'Big Game' reputation by punishing Talk 'N Text's defense with his impeccable outside shooting.
By winning the best-of-five series, 3-2, San Mig booked a fourth straight trip to a conference finals and its 27th in franchise history - a staggering number that still pales in comparison to the 29 of its coach Tim Cone, who is in his sixth with the SMC franchise.
“I guess I can still say it. Our dream is still alive - remarkably,” said Cone after a fiercely fought match that lured close to 13,000 fans to the Big Dome.
More importantly, San Mig moved three wins away from completing just the fifth grand slam in history - and the second for Cone who got his first one with Alaska in 1996.
The Mixers now move on to face the winner of the other semifinal series between Alaska and Rain or Shine, which also play a do-or-die Game Five on Saturday.
Yap again led the way for San Mig with 25 points while going 5-of-9 from beyond the three-point arc. The last of those three-pointers opened an 81-66 lead for the Mixers with 3:20 to go.
Talk 'N Text got within four, 87-91, in the endgame but simply ran out of time.
San Mig remained unbeaten in four deciding Game Fives since the trio of Yap, Pingris, and PJ Simon came together under the banner of the former Purefoods franchise.
“It wasn’t the best played, down-the-stretch game … Little disappointed with the way we played in the end but we can’t argue the result,” said Cone.
Blakely added 21 points and 16 rebounds while Joe Devance added 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists a triple double for San Mig, which is actually on track for a fourth successive championship.
Yap led San Mig’s 14-3 run in the third period that turned a 37-43 deficit into a 51-46 lead. That run also allowed San Mig to grab e 60-50 advantage late in the same quarter.
The loss spoiled the efforts of Paul Harris, who finished with 40 points and 14 rebounds for the Texters.
San Mig (93) – Yap 25, Blakely 21, Barroca 17, Devance 11, Pingris 10, Simon 7, Reavis 5, Melton 3, Sangalang 2.
Talk ‘N Text (87) – Harris 40, De Ocampo 13, Castro 11, Seigle 8, Espiritu 7, Fonacier 4, Williams 2, Rob Reyes 2, Aban 0, Alapag 0, Carey 0, J. Reyes 0, Baclao 0, Canaleta 0, Ry. Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 20-21, 38-37,62-55, 93-87.