SAN Mig Coffee stood its ground in the face of a determined comeback by Alaska to hack out an 83-73 victory in a sudden-death match on Friday night and seal a place in the PBA Governors Cup semifinals.
Sophomore guard Mark Barroca bolstered his growing reputation as one of the league's top closers, hitting a top-of-the-key jumper with to turn the tide after a last-gasp Alaska push had cut a double-digit San Mig lead to four in the final 46 seconds.
Alaska, which beat San Mig in an emotional, fiercely fought semifinal series, 3-1, on the way to winning the Commissioner's Cup championship, never got any closer from there as the Aces' season ended in a maze of turnovers and missed free throws by import Wendell McKines.
The win atoned for a 105-112 loss to Alaska on Wednesday and enabled the second-seeded and twice-to-beat Mixers to move on to the Final Four where they will take on the third-seeded Meralco Bolts, who dispatched Barako Bull in one game in their own quarterfinal match-up.
“That was a big load off our shoulders. I mean in a twice-to-beat, the pressure is all on the team with the disadvantage in Game One. But once they win the first one, the pressure goes all the way to the other team, the team that was supposed to be the favorites,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone.
Cone said the only way they could beat a scrappy Aces team is through tough defense. And the Mixers did just that.
“The key is we went back to basics. We focused on our defense. We got the score where we wanted it to go. We played a very good, solid fourth quarter, which we haven’t done much against Alaska this season,” added the former Alaska coach.
The Mixers’ defense was so unforgiving they held the Aces to just 28 percent shooting (23-of-82) and forced them to turn the ball over 20 times.
The costliest errors came in the endgame when the usually steady Cyrus Baguio and JV Casio committed back-to-back turnovers off simple passes, setting the stage for Barroca's game-clinching basket.
Another major factor was McKines’ game-long struggle from the foul line. The wide-bodied McKines, a 70.9 percent free throw shooter this conference, only shot six-of-18 overall from the stripe.
Marqus Blakely led the Mixers with 30 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, four steals and five blocks in another complete game.
However, San Mig had an early casualty when sophomore forward Allein Maliksi apparently twisted his left knee while driving past Alaska’s Sonny Thoss early in the second period.
Maliksi clutched on his left knee and spent several minutes on the floor as the entire San Mig bench attended to him.
Maliksi managed to shoot one of two free throws, before going straight to the dugout.
San Mig Coffee 83 - Blakely 30, Devance 12, Maliksi 10, Barroca 7, Simon 7, Mallari 6, Pingris 4, Reavis 3, Ponferrada 2, Yap 2.
Alaska 73 - McKines 24, Baguio 20, Dela Cruz 10, Thoss 6, Casio 5, Abueva 4, Jazul 3, Espinas 1, Hontiveros 0.
Quarterscores: 18-12, 39-35, 61-53, 83-73