SAN Miguel Beer knew it had a big fight in its hands against Coca-Cola last night.
Good thing there was a pair of old hands finding their touch when needed most.
Dondon Hontiveros scattered eight of his game-high 24 points and Olsen Racela all five of his points in the fourth quarter to lift the Beermen past the gritty Tigers 99-89 in the KFC PBA Philippine Cup wildcard phase at the Araneta Coliseum.
Those shots enabled San Miguel to fend off Coke’s fight-back from two 21-point deficits in the third quarter and keep alive its bid of making the best-of-three quarterfinals as the last qualifier.
“This is somehow the path God allowed us to be in,” said Tanquingcen, whose powerhouse team was a pre-tournament favorite only to wind up in the wildcard phase after finishing the eliminations at sixth.
“We just have to make sure we do our best, put in all our efforts dahil ang results darating ‘yun,” he added. “We just have to play with the talent we have and let the chips fall as they may.”
The Beermen next take on the winner of the other wildcard pairing pitting Purefoods and Air21 still being played at press time.
Tanquingcen said his team is up for more anxious moments against either the Giants or Express.
“Against Purefoods you have to deal with James (Yap), Kerby (Raymundo), Rico (Villanueva). Sa Air21 naman, you have to deal with everybody, including ‘yung dalawang bago nila,” he pointed out.
Tanquingcen was just glad the Coke business was done and over with.
Given up for dead by many after trailing 44-65 and 47-68, Coke managed to muster one big gasp that put it within 71-78, still 9:30 to go.
After a Hay Washington charity, Hontiveros strung up three straight baskets to help give his team more breathing room 87-71.
Asi Taulava, back in action after fracturing his left middle finger last Dec. 7, led is team back to within 79-87, but Racela’s triple and elbow jumper, followed by a Mick Pennisi triple, made it a safer 95-83 game, only 2:23 left.
Taulava wound up with 20 points and 13 rebounds while Mark Telan added 12 and 13. But Coke still bowed out of the tournament with interim head coach Kenneth Duremdes winding up his first tournament as tactician with a 6-9 win-loss slate.
The way Coke fought back and gave his team fits impressed Tanquingcen, more so since the Tigers missed their other injured frontliner, Nic Belasco, out with a broken right foot.