THE San Mig bench needs to contribute more than ever if the team is going to topple unbeaten Talk 'N Text for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title.
Coach Tim Cone in particular mentioned rookies Justin Melton and Ian Sangalang, along with sophomore guard Alex Mallari, whose contributions he said should come in handy as the Mixers bid for a third straight championship at the expense of the top-seeded Tropang Texters.
Game One of the best-of-five championship series is on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Melton, the 5-foot-8 freshman guard out of Mt. Olive College, averaged 6.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.0 steal in 13 minutes of play in the semifinals, providing the backcourt energy Cone wanted whenever veteran Peter June Simon takes a breather on the bench.
The 6-foot-5 Sangalang, on the other hand, averaged 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in the Mixers’ 3-2 semifinal win over the Air21 Express.
Mallari averaged 8.6 minutes in the semis, contributed 3.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in the playoffs.
“They (Tropang Texters) have great depth. They push the ball up and down so guys like Ian, Alex (Mallari), and Justin are gonna be playing huge roles for us because to match the depth of Talk ‘N Text, we’re gonna expect a lot from them,” Cone told mediamen during Thursday’s pre-Finals press conference held at the Sambokojin in Eastwood City.
With veterans James Yap, Simon, Marc Pingris, and point guard Mark Barroca playing extended minutes during the playoffs after the team was dragged into a pair of do-or-die games in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, Cone said it is imperative for his shock troopers to deliver when the need arises.
The Tropang Texters have been invincible all conference long as evident in their perfect 13-0 win-loss record. The Mixers also suffered an 81-75 loss to the Tropang Texters in their lone match up this conference in a game that saw them trail by as many as 18 points.
Cone said Talk ‘N Text’s veteran backcourt tandem of Jimmy Alapag and Jason Castro are also expected to give the Mixers’ guards problems owing to their quickness.
“This will be the first time for Justin to basically go up against Jason and Jimmy, a real treat for him and a real challenge,” he said.