SAN Miguel Beer showed its championship character with its back against the wall as it blew past shorthanded TNT Katropa, 104-88, on Saturday to drag its PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series to a deciding game.
It was a tale of two halves and the Beermen turned it up a notch in the final two quarters after a sluggish start to coast to the victory in Game Six at the Mall of Asia Arena.
June Mar Fajardo posted the 11th 20-20 game of his career, tallying 23 points and 21 boards on top of four blocks, while Arwind Santos added 21 markers and missed a double-double by a rebound to lead the Beermen.
“Lahat sila gusto manalo,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “In spite of a below-par performance in the first half, but in the second half, nakita yung ine-expect ng marami sa amin eh. Hopefully mangyari ulit yun sa next game.”
Both teams engage each other in an expected dogfight in Game Seven on Monday night also at MOA Arena.
The Beermen made the sudden death possible by erasing a 12-point deficit in the third quarter, going on a run to take a one-point lead entering the final frame where they sustained their push and outscored the Texters, 34-19, to pull away.
RR Garcia sparked the third-quarter turnaround by scoring all but two of his nine points in the quarter, before Alex Cabagnot led the late surge by firing 10 of his 19 points in the payoff period as he finished with seven assists, four boards, and two steals.
Chris Ross added 14 points, five assists, three rebounds, one steal, and one block, while Marcio Lassiter put up an all-around triple-7 showing of seven points, seven caroms, and seven assists in 40 minutes.
Already without stretch forward Troy Rosario who tied the knot with his college sweetheart, Mich, on the same day, the Texters also saw Jayson Castro suffer a minor injury, although the TNT superstar still finished with a team-high 19 points, five assists, and three steals in 25 minutes.
The Texters’ other stretch-4, Ranidel de Ocampo, was held to just five points on just seven attempts after scoring 18 in Game Five.
SMB 104 – Fajardo 23, Santos 21, Cabgnot 19, Ross 14, Garcia 9, Lassiter 7, Espinas 5, McCarthy 2, De Ocampo 2, Agovida 1, Tubid 1, Heruela 0, Reyes 0, Van Opstal 0
TNT 88 – Castro 19, Pogoy 12, Fonacier 12, Reyes 9, Williams 8, Rosales 7, Tautuaa 6, De Ocampo 5, Carey 3, Tamsi 3, Rosser 2, Seigle 2, Golla 0, Sumalinog 0
Quarterscores: 26-27, 45-53, 70-69, 104-88