San Miguel claims top spot in PBA playoffs after big comeback against Tropang TNT
SMB center June Mar Fajardo fakes off David Simon on the way to an and-1. Jerome Ascano

SAN Miguel Beer banked on a late push as it frustrated Tropang TNT, 104-98, on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to clinch the top seed heading into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.

The Beermen overhauled a late deficit behind June Mar Fajardo and Tyler Wilkerson to steal the victory and avoid complications in the first round of the postseason.

Instead of dropping to fifth had they lost, the Beermen emerged on top after the elimination round with an 8-3 win-loss record, armed with a twice-to-beat advantage against sister team Star in the quarterfinals.

The Beermen also snapped the four-game winning streak of the Texters, who finished the eliminations at 6-5, good for sixth seed opposite Alaska in a best-of-three series in the Round of 8.

“Catching up lagi kami, but we played deliberately and nasunod lahat ng game plan namin the last six minutes,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “This was very important game for us.”

Fajardo fired 14 of his 18 points in the payoff period, where Wilkerson scored 12 of his 36 markers to lead the Beermen in denying the Texters, who missed Jayson Castro, of getting a playoff for the second seed.

The Texters looked like they didn’t miss their franchise player, who was out with a bum stomach, as they went ahead, 94-88, after Troy Rosario split his charities with three minutes and 40 seconds to go.

But the Beermen retaliated with a 10-0 blast, capped by a left-corner three-pointer by Alex Cabagnot at the 1:16 mark as they held the Texters scoreless for almost three minutes.

The Texters broke their dry spell only inside the last minute when David Simon, who led them with 32 points, 16 boards, five blocks, and three steals, split his charities.

 

The scores:

SMB 104 – Wilkerson 36, Fajardo 18, Cabagnot 10, Lassiter 10, Ross 10, De Ocampo 7, Santos 7, Arana 4, Semerad 2, Espinas 0, Lutz 0, Tubid 0

TNT 98 – Simon 32, Rosario 14, Tautuaa 10, Williams 10, De Ocampo 9, Ababou 6, Rosser 6, Reyes J. 4, Reyes R. 3, Carey 2, Fonacier 2

Quarterscores: 19-20, 43-45, 68-72, 104-98

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos