CHRIS McCullough capped a 35-point, 22-rebound performance with a bevy of clutch plays in the endgame as San Miguel denied TNT KaTropa, 99-94, in Game Five to move on the verge of a second PBA championship this season.
The high-flying McCullough took over the game just as TNT counterpart Terrence Jones started to misfire out of sheer exhaustion, hitting four of the Beermen's last six points to steal a game the KaTropa had dominated most of the way.
McCullough scored a layup over Jones to give the Beermen a 95-94 lead, added two free throws with 13.3 seconds left, and, to complete the job, deflected a three-point attempt by Troy Rosario, setting the stage for the Chris Ross free throws that completed SMB's comeback from a 16-point second-half deficit.
“Nagpapasalamat pa rin ako sa Panginoong Diyos na biniyayaan ako ng isang panalo na napakahirap ngayong gawin especially nung down kami ng 16 points. I’m happy with the players because they accepted their role,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
By winning a second straight game in the best-of-seven series, the Beermen took a 3-1 lead to move within a win of a adding the Commissioner's Cup title to the all-Fiipino championship they won early in the season.
The league's most decorated franchise get a chance to wrest the second jewel of a grand slam in Game Six on Friday night, also at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jones scored 35 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and issued eight assists for the KaTropa, but he committed two turnovers and missed twice after scoring one free throw that put his team ahead, 94-91.
The KaTropa hit 14 three-pointers, had four players scoring in double figures, and opened leads as big as 85-69 with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter following a Roger Pogoy trey.
The Beermen, however, answered with a 9-0 run led by McCullough to set the stage for the thrilling finish. Christian Standhardinger hit two free throws to cut the deficit to two points, 93-91, with 2:42 left.
Terrence Romeo scored 22 points off the bench for the Beermen while June Mar Fajardo added 16 points and 11 rebounds.
San Miguel 99 - McCullough 35, Romeo 22, Fajardo 16, Pessumal 9, Ross 7, Cabagnot 4, Standhardinger 4, Santos 2.
TNT 94 - Jones 35, Castro 18, Rosario 16, Pogoy 12, Trollano 7, D. Semerad 6, Heruela 0, Magat 0, Reyes 0.
Quarters: 22-28; 45-49; 69-80; 99-94.