SAN Miguel Beer displayed its championship poise down the stretch as it finished off Barangay Ginebra, 100-94, on Saturday night to advance to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals for the fourth straight time.
Alex Cabagnot showed why he’s one of the best closers in the league, scoring back-to-back baskets that gave the Beermen the lead for good and insurance points against the gritty Gin Kings to close out the best-of-seven series in five games.
“Nakita natin na nag-all out sila (Ginebra) dahil their backs are against the wall,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “Hindi namin nakitaan ng white flag. They came out really strong.”
“But the players, our players, refused to lose dahil alam nila importance ng game na ‘to,” he added as his team clinched a finals appearance for the 39th time overall.
The four-time defending champion Beermen are now waiting for the survivor of the Magnolia-NLEX Final Four series that’s tied at two games.
The Beermen gained the extra rest after putting in the work needed in Game Five, overhauling an early 12-point deficit, before proving steadier against the Gin Kings at crunchtime.
Cabagnot shone brightest, scoring four straight points, the first two that broke the last deadlock at 94, then the next two that gave them a two-possession lead, before Marcio Lassiter sealed the deal with two charities.
June Mar Fajardo anchored the attack, pumping in 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting, nine boards, three assists, and one block that negated his eight turnovers, while Lassiter was again a steady presence, finishing with 25 points, eight rebounds, and one assist in 41 minutes.
Arwind Santos put up another all-around showing of 11 points, 13 caroms, four assists, four steals, and three blocks, while Matt Ganuelas-Rosser continued to make the most of his starting role, tallying 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal, without committing a single turnover in almost 37 minutes.
The result spoiled a triple-double performance from Scottie Thompson, who poured in 10 points, 16 boards, and 16 assists, on top of two steals, and one assist in 42 minutes.
Japeth Aguilar also put up another offensive outburst with 32 points, along with four boards, two assists, one block, and one steal that went to waste.
SMB 100 — Fajardo 25, Lassiter 23, Ganuelas-Rosser 14, Cabagnot 12, Santos 11, Espinas 5, Ross 5, De Ocampo 4, Pessumal 1
GINEBRA 94 — J. Aguilar 32, Mercado 14, Thompson 10, Devance 9, Ferrer 8, Tenorio 8, R. Aguilar 7, Cruz 4, Caguioa 2, Caperal 0
Quarterscores: 25-34, 55-55, 83-76, 100-94