San Miguel leans on big finishing kick to hold off undermanned but gritty Alaska
SMB guard Chris Ross dives for a loose ball against Tony dela Cruz. Dante Peralta

SAN Miguel averted disaster as it came through with a huge endgame fightback to thwart a gritty undermanned Alaska side, 93-88, and get back in the groove of the PBA Philippine Cup on Saturday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.  

RR Garcia, Arwind Santos, and Marcio Lassiter made the crucial plays in the stretch run that capped the defending champion’s rally from as much as a 15-point deficit.

The trio triggered a 7-2 finishing kick by San Miguel in foiling the upset bid of the Aces, who were playing without injured Calvin Abueva and five other players who were either injured or suspended.

“In my entire career, ito ang kinatakutan ko kasi everyone expected us to win,” said an obviously relieved San Miguel coach Leo Austria as the Beermen improved to 2-1 overall following the Petron Saturday special doubleheader.

“But I’m happy for the players kasi yung sense of urgency pinairal nila. At the half, sinabi ko sa kanila, guys pride na ito. It’s not only a win, but it’s a matter of pride. And I’m happy to see them na nakinig sila.”

June Mar Fajardo churned out another monster numbers of 23 points and 22 rebounds, but the trio of Santos, Garcia, and Lassiter who supplied the finishing kick that spared the Beermen of what could have been an embarrassing loss.

Santos tied the score for the last time at 88 with 42 seconds left, before Garcia completed a steal off RJ Jazul to give the Beermen the lead for good.

Lassiter’s two free throws in the final 11 seconds finally towed the reigning champions in safer grounds, 92-88.

JV Casio topscored for Alaska with 20 points, veteran Tony dela Cruz played extended minutes to finish with 15, while young turks Jaypee Mendoza and Carl Bryang Cruz added 12 and 11, respectively.

The Aces sank to an 0-2 hole after losing their first two games by an average margin of three points.


The scores

SAN MIGUEL (93) - Fajardo 23, Santos 16, Lassiter 14, Garcia 13, Espinas 12, Agovida 8, Tubid 2, McCarthy 2, Ross 2, Van Opstal 0.

ALASKA (88) - Casio 20, Dela Cruz 15, Mendoza 12, Cruz 11, Banchero 7, Galliguez 5, Jazul 5, Racal 5, Magat 5, Hontiveros 3.

Quarterscores: 16-22; 44-53; 70-72; 93-88.

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