San Miguel Beer a win away from ending PBA title drought after holding off Alaska in Game Five
June Mar Fajardo imposes his will around the basket. Jerome Ascano

THERE were neither huge leads to bank on nor stunning comebacks to weather.

San Miguel Beer proved it can win a close game against Alaska after all as the Beermen outlasted the Aces, 93-88, in Game Five on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to move on the cusp of capturing the PBA Philippine Cup crown.

After blowing the Aces out in Games Two and Four, the Beermen stood toe to toe with their relentless opponents, who avoided falling into an early hole this time as the two teams engaged each other in a grinding battle of will.

The Beermen then buried the key buckets in the clutch, while making the defensive stops to pull off the crucial victory that gave them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

For once, June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos both delivered big games, scoring 19 points apiece to lead the Beermen, who continued to solve the Aces’ suffocating full-court defense.

“Naka-survive kami sa pressure defense nila,” Beermen coach Leo Austria said. “The players are starting to get familiar (with it).”

The Beermen can wrap up their first league title in three seasons in Game Six on Sunday also at the Big Dome.

Calvin Abueva came through as usual with 24 points and 12 boards, and found the necessary help from his teammates, particularly Cyrus Baguio, this time, but the Aces fired blanks down the stretch.

In a match between the league’s top defensive teams, it was the Beermen’s version that made a bigger presence in an encounter that saw 17 lead changes and 11 deadlocks, with no lead by both teams growing bigger than eight points.

Marcio Lassiter was the third double-digit scorer for the Beermen with 16 points, including three from beyond the arc that gave them an 89-82 cushion with a little over three minutes to go.

Abueva, who gave Alaska its last taste of the lead at 70-69 late in the third quarter, retaliated with four straight points to trim the lead to three, but the Aces could come no closer.

Alaska starting guard JV Casio went scoreless for the second successive game in the series. 

The scores:

SMB 93 – Santos 19, Fajardo 19, Lassiter 16, Kramer 9, Semerad 9, Tubid 8, Cabagnot 7, Lutz 4, Ross 2, Omolon 0, Pascual 0, Fortuna 0, Maierhofer 0, Chua 0

ALASKA 88 – Abueva 24, Baguio 19, Manuel 13, Thoss 11, Hontiveros 9, Jazul 9, Menk 2, Eman 1, Banchero 0, Casio 0, Dela Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0, Dela Rosa 0, Espinas 0

Quarterscores: 21-23, 71-71, 93-88

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