San Miguel fends off late Ginebra rally to move on verge of all-Filipino three-peat
Chris Ross continued his stellar two-way play to give the Beermen a 3-1 edge in the Philippine Cup Finals over the Gin Kings. Jerome Ascano

SAN Miguel Beer banked on a strong offensive start before finishing off with a solid defensive stand as it repulsed Barangay Ginebra, 94-85, on Friday night to move on the verge of capturing a third straight PBA Philippine Cup championship.

Picking up from where they left off in their 99-88 Game Three win, the Beermen scored 11 unanswered points to start the game, maintained a sizeable cushion throughout, before weathering a late Gin Kings’ stand in front of over 17,000 fans at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

June Mar Fajardo showed why he’s the Best Player of the Conference, while Chris Ross sustained his impressive two-way play as their fellow starters also contributed significant numbers to lead the Beermen, who took a 3-1 lead in the series.

“They key was our good start. Every time we have a good start, many things can happen,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “Nagkaroon kami ng kumpiyansa.”

“Yung defense rin namin, nag-work,” he added.

The Beermen can wrap it up in Game Five on Sunday night also at the Big Dome.

Fajardo, on the same night he won his record-tying fifth BPC award, displayed his full arensal down low as he registered 20 points, 13 boards, three assists, two blocks in 38 minutes, while Marcio Lassiter sparked SMB’s strong start with seven of his 20 points in the opening period.

Ross typified SMB’s hot shooting, knocking down five triples on the way to finishing with 17 markers as he missed a double-double by just one assist on top of four boards, and one steal  in 40 minutes.

While the Beermen were on target with 15 treys as a unit, the Gin Kings went cold from long range as they made just five of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc.

As a result, the Beermen led from start to finish and by as many as 26 points, 60-34, early in the third quarter, and never allowed the Gin Kings to come closer than seven points the rest of the way.

Joe Devance, still recovering from foot injury, was one of the few bright spots for the Gin Kings, willing his team back as he fired a team-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, scoring 14 in the third quarter, along with six boards, two assists, and one steal.

LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar added just 12 points each, while Chris Ellis was the other Gin King in twin-digit scoring with 10 markers, although he was scoreless in the second half.

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The scores:

SMB 94 – Fajardo 20, Lassiter 20, Ross 17, Cabagnot 13, Santos 8, Tubid 8, De Ocampo 5, Espinas 3, Heruela 0

GINEBRA 85 - Devance 22, Aguilar 12, Tenorio 12, Ellis 10, Thompson 7, Ferrer 6, Mercado 6, Marcelo 4, Caguioa 3, Mariano 2, Cruz 1, Taha 0

Quarterscores: 30-18, 55-34, 76-63, 94-85

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos