PAUL Harris buried three of his six three-pointers in the final three and a half minutes to lead Talk ‘N Text to a 92-88 victory over San Mig and a berth in the Top Four of the PBA Governors Cup playoffs on Friday night.
The 6-4 Harris refused to give up in the face of the Mixers’ strong second-half fightback, pouring 20 of his PBA career-high 39 points in the last two quarters of a thrilling scrap at the Mall of Asia Arena.
He finished the game with a season-high nine three-pointers, topping the eight three-point baskets made by Air21 import Wesley Witherspoon during the Commissioner’s Cup, as Talk 'N Text improved to a league-best 6-2 (win-loss) record.
Pint-sized guard Jason Castro also played a crucial role by pulling off two big steals inside the final minute of the first meeting between the two teams since San Mig beat Talk 'N Text, 3-1, in the Commissioner's Cup Finals.
The last of those seals was off a telegraphed pass by Marqus Blakely with 12 seconds to go and Talk ‘N Text holding on to an 90-85 lead.
The Mixers’, who drew a PBA career-high tying 30 points from Joe Devance, found their march to an automatic Top Four berth derailed as they fell to a four-way tie for the second to fifth spots with Ginebra, Rain or Shine and Air21 at 5-3.
“I’m very pleased with the way the team responded today. But a lot of credit goes to Paul Harris, who really just shot the three-points very, very well and came out with the outstanding effort for today’s game,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black.
Black also commended veteran guard Ryan Reyes for stepping up in the absence of team captain Jimmy Alapag, who is out due to viral infection.
Reyes went scoreless, but contributed four rebounds and six assists, while manning the point guard spot.
The Tropang Texters outrebounded the Mixers, 55-48, and enjoyed a sizeable 18-6 edge on second chance points.
Import Marqus Blakely had 21 points and 22 rebounds in a losing effort for the defending champions.
The Mixers will regroup and try to grab one of the three remaining Top Four slots on Monday when they face Rain or Shine at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Talk 'N Text (92) -- Harris 39, Castro 19, De Ocampo 12, Fonacier 9, Baclao 7, Williams 2, Carey 2, Canaleta 2, Reyes J. 0, Reyes R. 0.
San Mig (88) -- Devance 30, Blakely 21, Barroca 10, Yap 9, Sangalang 7, Simon 6, Maliksi 3, Pingris 2, Mallari 0, Reavis 0.
Quarterscores: 31-21; 53-45; 68-70; 92-88.