San Miguel defuses TNT to move on verge of ending Commissioner's Cup title drought
Arwind Santos takes charge and the Beermen are now a win away from the crown. Jerome Ascano

SAN Miguel Beer showed the stuff champions are made of, frustrating TNT KaTropa, 111-102, on Friday night to move a close in on the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title.

The Beermen erased a 15-point halftime deficit as they negated the Texters’ hot shooting early on with their own in the second half, before displaying tremendous composure down the stretch to pull off the win in Game Five at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Arwind Santos sparked the comeback with by catching fire in the third quarter, before star playmakers Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross brought them home with heady plays on both ends of the floor for the Beermen.

By taking a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Beermen moved a win away from ending a 16-year title drought in the midseason tournament, capturing their fifth championship in eight conferences, and 24th overall.

“I thought we were going to lose after the first half… but they just refused to lose,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “That’s the character we got in our last four championships.”

The Beermen can clinch their first Commissioner’s Cup crown since 2000 with a win in Game Six on Sunday night also at the Big Dome.

The Texters looked like they were headed for their second straight victory as they heated up in the last three minutes of the second quarter where they knocked down five triples to take a 61-46 lead at the half.

But the Beermen came alive after intermission behind Santos who scattered 14 of his season-high 27 points in the third quarter, draining three treys, and also contributing eight rebounds, five blocks, two steals, and one assist in 35 minutes.

Cabagnot and Ross conspired in taking over on offense in the payoff period where the former scored 12 of his game-high 28 points, while Ross finished with an all-around performance of 11 assists, 10 points, five steals, and four boards in 42 minutes.

The backcourt tandem was highlighted by Ross picking the pocket of Anthony Semerad, saving the ball from going out of bounds, before managing to feed it to Cabagnot, who finished with a breakaway layup that gave them a 104-95 lead with 3:45 left.

After Charles Rhodes converted a three-point play that gave them a 12-point lead, the Texters scored seven unanswered points to pull to within five only to fall short.

Ranidel de Ocampo led the Texters with 19 points, but was held scoreless in the second half, while Jayson Castro was held to just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 27 minutes, while committing a couple of costly turnovers in the endgame.



The scores:

SMB 111 - Cabagnot 28, Santos 27, Rhodes 20, Lassiter 17, Ross 10, Fajardo 9, Heruela 0, Espinas 0, D. Semerad 0, Tubid 0, De Ocampo 0

TNT 102 – De Ocampo 19, Rosales 16, Smith 15, Rosario 12, A. Semerad 12, Castro 12, Reyes 6, Garcia 3, Tautuaa 3, Pogoy 2, Williams 2, Nuyles 0

Quarterscores: 29-26, 46-61, 82-79, 111-102

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos