GRACE B. CASTILLO
Published — Monday 3 December 2012
Last update 3 December 2012 6:58 am
MANILA: With the stakes a lot higher this time, San Mig Coffee versus Rain or Shine the return engagement followed the same pattern — with the Mixers writing a different ending.
San Mig came up with two critical defensive gems inside the final nine seconds last night and prevented a Rain or Shine repeat by escaping with a 93-92 win that virtually gave the Mixers No. 2 seeding in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
Before a crowd of more than 15,000 at the Araneta Coliseum, the collective San Mig defense stopped Jeff Chan and Beau Belga from nailing the game-winning attempts for the Elasto Painters, who nipped the Mixers, 80-79 last October despite being down by 18 points in the third period.
In their second meeting, the Mixers were 13 points up on the Painters at the halfway point of the fourth and they seemed headed to a cruise until Rain or Shine gave itself a chance for another steal with a shade under nine seconds left.
Chan and Belga both had their attempts changed because of the San Mig defense as the Mixers improved to 9-2 and would have two chances to nail the win that would formally give them the No. 2 seed.
Defending champion Talk ‘N Text sealed top ranking last week after defeating Petron Blaze, 95-82, with Rain or Shine, which dropped to 8-5, staying in third spot and will play No. 6 in a best-of-three series.
Nos. 1 and 2 will play Nos. 8 and 7, respectively, needing to win just once to advance to the Final Four. Nos. 4 and 5 battle it out in another race-to-two affair to determine the fourth semifinalist.
“You have to give that (Rain of Shine) team a lot of credit because they kept coming back,” San Mig coach Tim Cone told reporters. “We made a couple of stops in the last nine seconds.” Chan put the Painters within that one-point difference with 11.5 seconds left after wisely picking up a foul from Marc Pingris while going for a three-pointer.
After making the three free throws, the Rain or Shine defense forced Peter June Simon to make a passing error with the Painters getting the ball back with nine seconds remaining.
But a repeat of that October comeback wasn’t meant to be, as Chan’s drive was thwarted by Rafi Reavis and then Belga’s running jumper was changed by a triple team in the lane.
The playoff picture, incidentally, got muddled up with the result of the first game, when Barako Bull buried Barangay Ginebra in a hole so deep that the Express pounded out an 83-79 decision.
Barako Bull snapped a four-game losing streak with the win and rose to 4-9, now tied with idle Air21 for eighth spot with both squads having a game each left.
The Energy limited the Gin Kings to nine points in the second period and to a measly 26 for the first half as they led by as many as 15 in the fourth period to eventually put a halt to Ginebra’s five-game winning streak.
Barako Bull will have a tougher final assignment compared to Air21 as the Energy will close out against the Painters and the Express to finish up against newcomer Globalport.
Ronald Tubid scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth period, highlighting his heroics with a key running jumper off the glass with 1:35 remaining that gave the Energy a 76-69 lead.
Ginebra was held to its third-lowest offensive output in the tournament and dropped to 7-6 overall, now tied with idle Alaska and Meralco.