San Mig outsteadies ROS for 2-1 lead
MANILA: Pouncing on the enemy’s loss of focus for one fleeting moment Saturday night, San Mig Coffee moved on the verge of forever cementing its place as one of the all-time greatest teams in the PBA.
The Mixers’ second unit got the job done in the first five minutes of the payoff frame, taking advantage of Rain or Shine’s sloppy ball handling in that stretch which led to a 78-69 victory and a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series for the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Rookie Ian Sangalang scored the Mixers’ first six points in the fourth as San Mig dropped a 12-2 run that turned a 58-59 deficit into a 70-61 lead which the Elasto Painters were never able to recover from.
San Mig cashed in on practically every Rain or Shine turnover in that span to break away as the Mixers gained two chances at wrapping up this series to become just the fifth team in league history to ever complete a Grand Slam.
That five-minute stretch allowed the Mixers to break free from what had been a tight contest right from the start and post the first lopsided victory in these Finals. San Mig won Game 1, 104-101 before Rain or Shine bounced back to equalize, 89-87, in overtime on Thursday.
So efficient was San Mig’s back-up crew that James Yap, Peter June Simon and import Marqus Blakely were all riding the bench in that telling stretch, giving coach Tim Cone fresh legs for Game 4 slated Monday at 8 p.m. also at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Even with two chances at his second Triple Crown sweep, Cone still refused to talk about it in an effort to not let his wards drop into a state of complacency against what he describes as the “toughest team we can play against.”
“You can’t talk about it (Grand Slam) until it’s done,” Cone said. “We can’t afford to do that. We have too much respect for this (Rain or Shine) team. I have been telling my guys that this (Rain or Shine) is the mentally strongest team you will play.
“They don’t break and you have to compete with them every step of the way,” Cone continued. “You have to earn everything you get and that’s what we did today. We earned it (win) especially from the defensive side.”
Rain or Shine also did not get the usual scoring from its locals, with only import Arizona Reid scoring in twin digits with 31.
The Elasto Painters also only converted on 4-of-25 attempts from beyond the arc – 0-of-5 in the fourth period – as their guns were silent for most of the night.
And this is giving coach Yeng Guiao some confidence heading into the fourth game.
“We’re down 1-2, but I don’t think that this is the end of the series,” Guiao said. “This is the way we got into the Finals, we lost the first (game of the semis against Alaska), won the second and lost the third. But we won the last two.”
Meanwhile, June Mar Fajardo, the 6-foot-10 franchise player of San Miguel Beer, won the Most Valuable Player award earlier over Jason Castro and Ranidel De Ocampo of Talk ‘N Text.
The MVP trophy capped a night of four total awards for Fajardo, who was also named the Most Improved Player and won inclusions to the Mythical First Team and the All-Defensive Team.
“This is a product of so much hard work,” Fajardo said in Filipino.
His victory marked the second straight year that a San Miguel Beer standout won the award after Arwind Santos last season, and it was the third straight year that someone without a championship for the season was accorded the league’s highest individual honor.
Mark Caguioa of Barangay Ginebra touched off that streak in 2012.
Fajardo also became the first Cebu-born player to win the MVP in the PBA.
In a related development, the league’s board of governors met in an emergency capacity before tip-off of Game 4 and accepted commissioner Chito Salud’s apology for mishandling the Draft Lottery in Game 1.
Rain or Shine representative Mamerto Mondragon was also present during the meeting that lasted less than an hour and also accepted Salud’s apology as the board unanimously agreed to institute changes in the system.
But Guiao and Rain or Shine management were far from appeased after reading a story Saturday morning the quoted board chair Mon Segismundo of Meralco as saying that “it was a non-event.”
“We have bigger things to worry about,” Segismundo said in the report. “My advice to coach Yeng is to smell the roses.”
Guiao again reacted to this and said: “I think he had prematurely judged the case. We were approaching the board for an investigation of that matter. I emphasize that it is an issue of integrity, credibility and not the process itself.
“I think the advice of the chairman (smell the roses) is good advice, but as a leader, I think you have to be able to smell the roses (also) but you also have to smell the stink.”