San Mig Coffee's James Yap congratulates teammate Mark Barroca. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – The San Mig Coffee Mixers are again on top of the Philippine basketball world after winning the PBA Philippine Cup, a feat made more impressive considering their poor start to the conference.
San Mig, dealing with a variety of injuries to key players, slumped to a 1-5 record at the top of the conference, and needed overtime to beat the cellar-dwelling Air21 Express for their first win of the season.
They managed to finish the elimination round with a .500 record (7-7), and entered the playoffs as the fifth seed.
“Sabi nga ni Coach (Tim Cone), bad start lang kami,” Barroca told the league website. “Lagi niyang nire-remind sa amin na ‘wag kami mawalan ng pag-asa. Nagsta-start ‘yung season namin sa kalagitnaan na, kasi lagi kaming ganun eh.” [http://pba.inquirer.net/42137/giving-his-all]
“Noong una, naga-alangan pa kami at ‘di namin alam kung saan pupunta, kasi ‘yung triangle, detalaydo talaga,” he added. “Kaya noong dumami ‘yung laro namin, unti-unti ring nakuha ‘yung game.”
“’Yun ‘yung nagpa-elevate sa amin sa buong conference at nakabalik kami.”
In the 2013 Governors Cup, the Mixer similarly got off to a poor 1-4 start, but still won the crown after a seven-game battle against Petron Blaze.
Barroca noted that their rookies also had to adjust and learn Cone’s triangle offense, but once they did, they were able to provide solid contributions.
“May mga rookie pa kami na naga-adjust din, so siguro ganoon ‘yung nangyari. Nung kalagitnaan na, doon na nagpi-pick up ‘yung mga kasama namin, sina Justin (Melton) at sina Ian (Sangalang), at gumanda na ‘yung rotation namin,” he said.
Throughout the playoffs, Melton often teamed up with Barroca to provide a change of pace for San Mig, and wowed fans with his speed and athleticism. Sangalang, the former NCAA MVP, came up big in Game 6 by hitting big shots in the third period just as Rain or Shine was making a rally.
Cone was all praises for his players after they clinched the championship with a 93-87 win in Game 6, pointing out that the Mixers never once gave up on the season even though they had several opportunities to do so.
“The players were just awesome,” he told reporters. “We worked really, really hard for this. The guys worked really, really hard for this.”
“There were so many when they could have quit. You know, when we were 1-5, then 3-6, they could have just pulled out of camp and walked. When we lost Game 2 to Talk 'N Text, and then we lost Game 2 to Ginebra by 29 points…”
“I mean, there were just so many opportunities for us to quit, and we didn’t,” Cone said.