SAN Miguel Beer displayed its championship pedigree when it mattered as it dispatched TNT KaTropa, 106-93, to advance to the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup on Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beermen saw a tough challenge from the eighth-seeded Texters as expected, but turned to a late salvo to gain enough separation and pull away for the victory in a quarterfinal matchup that heated up late with a commotion between Jericho Cruz and Arwind Santos.
June Mar Fajardo showed why he’s the reigning four-time MVP as he carried the Beermen with 35 points, 11 boards, two blocks, and one assist in over 38 minutes.
“This is the hardest game against Talk ‘N Text, because they’ve gone through two knockout games and they blew them out, so I was so worried,” said SMB coach Leo Austria, who turned emotional in the post-game conference, baring his wife, Ana, has undergone a successful kidney transplant.
“But I give credit to the boys, especially June Mar for being so focused,” he added. “We followed the gameplan to the letter.”
The Beermen will face the winner of the Ginebra-Rain or Shine best-of-three series that the Gin Kings are leading, 1-0.
It was certainly no walk in the park for the Beermen to reach the Final Four as the Texters stayed within striking distance most of the game that had 13 lead changes and four deadlocks.
The Texters were down by only two points, 90-88, when the Beermen banked on a 14-3 run, capped by two charities from Chris Ross, to build their biggest lead at 104-91, more than enough cushion to hold on.
Santos conspired with Fajardo, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the payoff period, including a jumper that put them up, 92-88, and sparked the late windup, finishing with seven boards, four assists, four blocks, and four steals in 37 minutes, before getting ejected following an altercation with Cruz.
Marcio Lassiter added 20 points, five boards, two assists, and two steals, while Ross chipped in 13 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and three steals.
Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario led the Texters with 19 points apiece, but the due combined for just three points in the final frame.
SMB 106 — Fajardo 35, Lassiter 20, Santos 15, Ross 13, Cabagnot 8, Heruela 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, De Ocampo 3, Pessumal 2, Espinas 1
TNT 93 — Castro 19, Rosario 19, Pogoy 17, Semerad 16, Williams 15, Cruz 3, Garcia 2, Torres 2, Carey 0, Paredes 0, Reyes 0, Tautuaa 0
Quarterscores: 31-23, 52-44, 77-72, 106-93