MANILA—San Mig Coffee pulled off a pulsating 67-60 win over Air 21 Express on Saturday for its fifth win in the 39th PBA Philippine Cup elimination round at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The absence of two-time MVP James Yap due to injury hardly mattered for the Coffee Mixers as Mark Barroca stepped up to fill up the void. The 5’10” guard Barroca, a fifth overall pick by Shopinas in 2011, fired 11 points in the fourth period to move coach Tim Cone’s squad to a tie with Meralco and Barako Bull from 5th to 7th spots with similar 5-7 win-loss slates.
But coach Tim Cone’s woes are not over yet as they still need to win against Petron Blaze on Wednesday and against Talk ‘N Text on
Friday to avoid complications as Alaska and Globalport can still create a stir in the standing.
“Any win like this win is a pretty win. Even though it’s ugly for us, it’s still a win. We struggled hard without James Yap. But anything for us in the win column is beautiful. Everybody’s tense, there were a lot of fumbling, “ said San Mig coach Tim Cone.
The Coffee Mixers relied on experience to repulse the challenge of the Express in a game that had several lead changes and deadlocks. San Mig could not even lead by more than eight points as the Express refused to bow easily. Air21 even managed to cut the lead to 63-60 with 1:34 left.
“It’s good to see Yancy de Ocampo stepping up. He just needs to be consistent with it. It’s nice to see him back playing again. The key for us is getting there. We got two tough teams coming up. Petron and Talk ‘N Text. We’ll figure out a way to win. I don’t think we’re peaking already. We’re not shooting well from the three-point zone. I told my players we just want to get better little by little,” added Cone.
Despite the setback, its 10th in 13 matches, Air 21 remains in the hunt of a quarterfinal slot depending on the outcome of the match between Globalport and Alaska today.
Peter June Simon topscored for the Coffee Mixers with 20 points, the 6’9 De Ocampo settled for 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Barroca finished with 11. KG Canaleta paced Air 21 with 22 points and Mark Cardona added 11.
Meanwhils, Globalport and Alaska Aces, two teams in the verge of early vacation, dispute the eighth spot when they collide Sunday, while Ginebra stakes its hold of solo leadership as it battles Barako Bull at the Araneta Coliseum.
With only two games left in their elimination round assignments, the winner between Batang Pier and the Aces in the 3 p.m. game today will have a big edge of taking the eighth and last quarterfinal slot because both have a tough opponent in their last match.