SAN Miguel Beer responded to a familiar challenge as it survived Star, 103-99, on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
The Beermen, who overcame four do-or-die games against Alaska in the Philippine Cup Finals to author the greatest comeback in league history, found themselves in the same situation and thrived in it again as they erased a late deficit to avoid a huge upset by the Hotshots.
Chris Ross, the all-Filipino conference Finals MVP, rose to the occasion anew with his hustle and clutch offense to lift the Beermen in their rubber match.
Tyler Wilkerson also bounced back from a so-so performance in the first game as the SMB import registered 46 points and 17 rebounds.
The Beermen thus set up a meeting against Rain or Shine in the Final Four in a best-of-five series that starts on Sunday also at the Big Dome.
SMB also broke a Commissioner’s Cup jinx as it clinched its first semifinal appearance in the midseason tournament since the league reverted to a three-conference format in 2011.
“It’s obvious that the players refused to lose,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “They know the glory of winning.”
“(But) they scared us,” the champion coach was quick to add of the Hotshots, who just fell short of becoming the first eight-seeded team to topple a top seed in four years.
The sister teams set aside their affinities in the sudden death that saw 13 lead changes and 15 deadlocks, the last at 99-all, before Ross scored four straight points to give the Beermen enough gap to prevail against the Hotshots.
Ricardo Ratliffe, PJ Simon, and Marc Pingris led the Hotshots’ stand that fell short.
SMB 103 – Wilkerson 46, Lassiter 17, Ross 13, Santos 10, Fajardo 9, Espinas 8, Cabagnot 0, Tubid 0
STAR 99 – Ratliffe 24, Simon 21, Pingris 18, Mallari 10, Maliksi 9, Barroca 8, Melton 5, Sangalang 4, Reavis 0
Quarterscores: 21-29; 52-54; 78-87; 103-99