San Mig Coffee blasts defending champs Alaska out of Comms Cup
MANILA, Philippines - Last team in.
There will be a new Commissioner's Cup champion as the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers punched their ticket to the semifinals of the 2014 PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner's Cup by way of a 79-65 drubbing of defending champions Alaska Aces to close out Game 3 of the quarterfinals on Saturday, April 26 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With PJ Simon exploding for 21 points and with Marc Pingris back in his hustling groove -tallying 10 points himself - there was no way San Mig Coffee was walking out of the Big Dome without the win.
"To be absolutely honest I didn't think I'd be here," Mixers head coach Tim Cone sighed in relief. "I just thought that Alaska was playing at too high of a level for us to be able to beat them twice in a row. At this point I feel very fortunate."
Unlike the first two games of their best-of-3 quarterfinals series where the defense was so stingy that it was extremely difficult for either team to pull away, Game 3 saw the Mixers maintaining the same defensive intensity but also coming alive offensively to bury Alaska for good as early as the third canto.
The Mixers broke the game wide open straight out of the dugout with an 18-8 blitz as Simon sank his 20th point on a one hander, 53-35, for the biggest lead of 18 points under the final 4 minutes of the third. Timely monster jams by Pingris also fueled the momentum of the Mixers who carried a 57-45 lead to the fourth.
By the final period, San Mig continued to pound on the Aces – with the help the defensive energy provided by James Yap – making sure to maintain their double digit advantage by still being patient with their offense and staying consistent with their defense.
Down the stretch, the Mixers made sure there would be no glimmer of hope for Alaska to make one final stand as they built a 15-point 74-57 lead on a Mark Barroca attack with 1:46 remaining in the contest.
The shifty playmaker finished with 14 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
For Alaska, it was the 2013 Commissioner's Cup Best Import Rob Dozier who led them with 23 points and 16 rebounds.
JVee Casio lit up from deep with 4 triples for his 14 points but couldn't bail his team out, who has been struggling for the most part since their 2013 Commissioner's Cup title.
Meanwhile, Cone also brushed off the supposed teacher-student rivalry of Cone and Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo, a former assistant of Cone when he was still with Alaska.
He said ousting the defending champions this conference was in no way a measure of revenge against the Aces that defeated them in the semis of the 2013 Commissioner's Cup.
"We beat them in the quarters two conferences ago so I don't have a payback with Alaska. I think that's a little bit overrated and overstated," Cone said. "I'm all about moving forward. That was an integral part of my past and I loved every minute and every moment I was there (with Alaska.)
"It's not a personal rivalry to me. That's my philosophy, just keep moving forward and moving on."
As the Mixers move forward to the semifinals against the underdogs Air21 Express on Tuesday, April 29, talks of their claiming a Grand Slam will continue to heighten.
As it is, the Mixers have won the titles for the last two conferences (2013 Governors' Cup and 2014 Philippine Cup). But to get the Grand Slam recognition, they must win all titles of a single season.
An interesting statistic, according to PBA Head Statistician Fidel Mangonon III, is the fact that the last 4 times San Mig Coffee and Alaska battled each other in a playoff series, the winner emerged as conference champion.
Going up against Air21, Cone knows they can't relax.
"Franz (Pumaren) said they're the dragon slayers and they're gonna come looking to slay us as well," Cone said. "I'd like to think we're one of the big dragons in the league so hopefully we'll be ready and try to avoid their arrows or swords or whatever I should say."
San Mig Super Coffee (79): Simon 21, Mays 17, Barroca 14, Pingris 10, Sangalang 6, Devance 5, Mallari 4, Melton 2, Reavis 0, Yap 0.
Alaska (65): Dozier 23, Casio 14, Jazul 8, Hontiveros 7, Espinas 5, Baguio 4, Thoss 2, Manuel 2, Reyes 0, Dela Cruz 0, Abueva 0.
Quarter scores: 21-15, 35-27, 57-45, 79-65.