Photo by Mark Cristino
MANILA, Philippines -- San Mig Coffee repeated its Game One win, not needing main man James Yap to be on the floor in the payoff period and instead banking on young guards Mark Barroca and Justin Melton to stun Barangay Ginebra, 97-89, for the 2-1 lead in their PLDT MyDSL PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal showdown at the Mall of Asia Arena Sunday night.
Barroca and Melton were San Mig’s surprise package at the finish as the Mixers ran to the ground Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and their teammates and thus regaining the series lead going to Game Four on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine, its 10-game streak snapped in the last Petron Blaze Saturday Special at the MOA Arena, hopes to get back on track right away, going for the pivotal 3-1 lead versus Petron Blaze in Game Four of their own semis duel at 8 p.m. Monday night also at the Big Dome.
“We’re still ahead in the series. We’re looking at things positively,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao after their 73-106 blowout loss in Game Three.
The Mixers recovered from their own shattering 29-point defeat in Game Two, starting and finishing strong on classic moves by coach Tim Cone.
Shifting to a tall starting unit of Rafi Reavis, Joe Devance, Marc Pingris, James Yap and PJ Simon, the Mixers seized the early initiative, an early double-digit lead at 16-6 and a 25-17 cushion at the end of the opening period.
Then at the finish, the Mixers beat the Kings with a quick five of Barroca, Melton, Simon, Pingris and Ian Sangalang.
“We deserved a good game as last game was a blowout. Too good, it was a really nice game,” said Cone.
“We’re a worried we’re a little tired mentally, but we got great contributions down the stretch.
James, PJ, Ping, Rafi and Joe set the tone for us and Justin and Ian picked it up in the fourth,” Cone also said.
Barroca came through with a career-best 25 points while Melton pumped in two big treys, and together starred in San Mig’s decisive endgame flurry, cutting down to size Slaughter and Aguilar.
Also with Simon, Pingris and Devance in there, the Mixers made a key run from a slim 83-80 lead, enjoying 11 leads in the trenches.
As Barroca fired away his first three-pointer in the series, the Mixers took their first 11-point spread at 93-82 with 1:55 left to play.
And there’s no stopping the Mixers from taking the crucial win from there.
Proving to be a big blow for the Kings were the ejection of small forward Mac Baracael early in the third quarter.
Going down the drain was Slaughter’s career-best output of 29 points.
LA Tenorio knocked in a prayer of a three-pointer as the Kings seized a 47-46 lead at the half, and Melton also made a trey to close third with the Mixers ahead at 71-68.
Slaughter carried much of the load early on, aggressively attacking San Mig’s post defense as the Kings erased two 15-point deficits – 21-6 and 23-8 -- in the opening quarter.
The 7-foot-1 Ginebra behemoth produced 19 points with 9-of-11 charities plus nine rebounds in the first half marred by technical fouls drawn by Baracael, Barroca and Cone.
Baracael and Barroca were called for double T for second motion. The Ginebra forward headed to the showers two minutes and 30 seconds into the third period on another technical foul incurred for vehemently complaining a ref’s call.