Flashing a fluid offense throughout, San Mig Coffee proved to have the right mix, emphatically stamping its class over the Alaska Aces 103-83 Friday night while launching its title bid in style in the 38th PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Towering center Yancy de Ocampo continued his resurgence under coach Tim Cone’s triangle offense, pumping in 11 of his 22 points in the opening period on top of 13 boards and six assists, while James Yap fired all but eight of his 20 markers in a near-flawless first quarter brilliance by the Mixers, formerly known as the B-Meg Llamados.
Reserve guard Mark Barroca added 16 points, 10 coming in the fourth, while PJ Simon also chipped in 16 to enable San Mig Coffee join early winners Brgy. Ginebra San Miguel, Rain or Shine, Barako Bull and defending champion Talk ‘N Text at the top of the heap.
Dondon Hontiveros scored 14 points while Cyrus Baguio added 13 but JVee Casio groped all game long, settling for just three markers as the Aces failed to dish out the sharp form that helped them beat the Mixers twice in the off-season.
“We jumped into them early at a time when they had great expectations,” stated Cone. “We lost to them twice in the preseason. They were discouraged with our shooting, we defended well and we moved the ball better. When you have that kind of game, you will end up with a 20-point win.”
De Ocampo, who also hauled down 13 rebounds and six assists, stated the team’s rigorous training sessions have been paying early dividends, saying: “Twice a day ang ensayo ng team. Sana maging maganda takbo ng team pati na rin ang execution.”
The Mixers clearly showed up finely-tuned, shooting a remarkable 64.6 percent from the field, lording it over the boards 50-37 and effectively running their offensive plays with 27-13 edge in assists.
Although Yap cooled his heels on the bench, the Mixers continued to pour it on in the second canto, uncorking a 20-7 surge that gave them a whopping 54-32 edge, courtesy of Simon’s back-to-back lay-ups.
Mac Baracael clustered five points in sparking a 10-3 run that pulled the Aces within 42-57 at the break.
Acquired in the off-season via a blockbuster trade that included former Alaska chief point guard LA Tenorio, Hontiveros hit eight straight points to trim the Aces’ deficit down to just 56-69.
But Simon, Barroca and Jonas Villanueva stood at the forefront of the Mixers’ sustained charge, coming up with one big spurt after another that completely kept the Aces at bay in the fourth.
A completed three-point play by Barroca–part of his 10 points in the fourth–off a foul from Brandon Cablay gave the Mixers their biggest cushion at 101-77, putting the game beyond doubt with still 1:45 left to play.
Earlier, Talk ‘N Text overcame a fourth-quarter meltdown by outlasting sister Meralco 112-110 in overtime.
Fil-Am Jared Dillinger tallied a team-high 20 points while Jason Castro finished with 16 points and five other teammates tallied 10 apiece as the Tropang Texters, despite playing without coach Norman Black and ace playmaker Jimmy Alapag, recovered in time to hold off the late-charging Bolts and set their title-retention bid in motion.
"I feel relieved,” stated assistant coach Nash Racela, who was tasked by Black to call the shots. “’Yun lang naman ang bilin ni coach Norman sa amin. We should try to win the game the best way we could. Buti nanalo naman kami."
Without ace center Asi Taulava who opted to play in the ASEAN Baksetball League, Jay-R Reyes valiantly picked up the slack, racking up 25 points while turning as the anchor in the Bolts’ scorching 25-4 surge, capped a lay-in off a Sol Mercado’s feed that forged a 99-all count.
Back-to-back baskets by Castro and Dillinger pushed TNT ahead 110-106 but Mercado replied with a triple to keep Meralco in the thick of the fight.
The TNT bench was called for a proper bench decorum infraction, with Ronjay Buenafe knotting the game at 110-apiece before Castro sank two charities, virtually pegging the final count.
With no timeout left, Mercado rushed the leather and tried to salvage the game for the Bolts, only to turn as the goat after his got blocked by Larry Fonacier.
Talk N’ Text 112 – Dillinger 20, Castro 16, Reyes 12, Williams 11, De Ocampo 11, Carey 11, Peek 10, Raymundo 8, Fonacier 8, Gamalinda 5.
Meralco 110 – Reyes 25, Mercado 20, Hodge 19, Buenafe 18, Salvacion 8, Ross 7, Cardona 7, Hugnatan 6, Belencion 0, Sharma 0.
Quarters: 33-20, 53-43, 86-64, 99-99, 112-110
San Mig Coffee 103 – De Ocampo 22, Yap 20, Barroca 16, Simon 16, Ramos 6, Villanueva 6, Pingris 5, Gonzales 4, Reavis 4, Gaco 2, Devance 2, Ponferada 0, Pacana 0.
Alaska 83 – Hontiveros 14, Baguio 13, Baracael 12, Espinas 12, Dela Cruz 8, Cablay 7, Reyes 6, Thoss 6, Casio 3, Eman 2, Belasco 0.
Quarters: 34-25, 57-42, 75-56, 103-83
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