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PBA: Mixers turn it on in second half, bury Express to end two-game slide

San Mig Coffee Mixer James Yap (R) shoots over Air21 Express forward Eric Camson. KC Cruz

(Updated 8:05pm) The San Mig Super Coffee Mixers grounded the Air21 Express and ended a two-game skid, 97-84, in the 2014 PBA Commissioner's Cup, Wednesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

San Mig Coffee (4-2) solidified their hold on third place, while Air21 (3-4) dropped to sixth with Ginebra and Meralco.

PJ Simon's 20 points, including 12 in the second half, earned him Player of the Game honors. Import James Mays led four Mixers in double-digit scoring with 23 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. Marc Pingris and Joe Devance scored 12 and 11 points respectively, and combined for five rebounds.

"We played with a lot more togetherness and connection in the third quarter. I felt coming out of halftime there was a better sense of urgency that was lacking in the past couple of games," said Mixers coach Tim Cone. San Mig Coffee outscored the Express 33-22 in the third, and led by as much as 20 points after posting just a 45-44 lead at halftime.

"We created a lot of stuff off our defense, which is what our coaching staff has been crying for," added Cone. The Mixers outscored Air21 29-13 on fast break points and 21-13 on turnover points.

The Mixers started the first quarter strong as Mark Barroca and Joe Devance scored on the break to lead 12-4. The Express took a while to recover from San Mig Coffee's stingy defense but Wesley Witherspoon found a way to go on a late tear, scoring 10 of their last 12 points end the frame trailing 20-18.

Sean Anthony opened the second with an and-one, exploiting the Mixers' defense with baseline drives. The former Tropang Texter tallied the Express' first 12 points of the quarter, but Air21 had a bad habit of leaving the rim susceptible to cutters, which allowed Devance and Ian Sangalang to exploit them inside while complementing PJ Simon's midrange game. The Express kept it close though to end the half, as they entered the break down by one, 45-44.
San Mig Coffee's Ian Sangalang (C) is blocked from behind by Air21's Aldrech Ramos. KC Cruz

The Express trapped aggressively to stay competitive in the third, but their style put them in the penalty halfway through the quarter. Marc Pingris and James Mays took the fight straight to Air21, combining for 10 points during a 24-9 run to close the frame. By holding Air21 to just two field goals in the last 8:40 of the third, San Mig Coffee held a 77-62 lead entering the last canto.

Simon was unstoppable on the break early in the fourth, combining with Mays for the Mixers' first 13 points, 90-70. The Mixers began to clear the bench with the game in the bag, though a late scoring outburst from Joseph Yeo trimmed the gap to 12 late, 94-82, with under a minute left.

San Mig Coffee shot 37-of-83 (44.6 percent) from the field and held the Express to a 30-of-92 (32.6 percent) clip.

Air21 import Wesley Witherspoon posted a game-high 27 points and 16 rebounds. Sean Anthony had 19 points and seven rebounds in his first game in an Express uniform. Joseph Yeo scored 11 points, while Mac Cardona added 10 points and six rebounds. - AMD, GMA News

The scores:

San Mig Coffee 97 - Mays 23, Simon 20, Pingris 12, Devance 11, Yap 9, Sangalang 8, Barroca 6, Cawaling 3, Melton 3, De Ocampo 2, Gaco 0, Mallari 0, Reavis 0

Air21 84 - Witherspoon 27, Anthony 19, Yeo 11, Cardona 10, Villanueva 5, Borboran 4, Taulava 4, Burtscher 2, Camson 2, Ramos 0

Quarter scoring: 18-20, 44-45, 62-77, 94-87