SAN Miguel Beer restored order in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, leaning on a late flurry to beat Barangay Ginebra, 99-88, on Wednesday night and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Chris Ross, the defensive anchor, again made the difference on offense, hitting a clutch three-pointer to cap off 12 unanswered SMB points that took the fight out of the Gin Kings in front of nearly 17,000 fans at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Alex Cabagnot matched Ross’s firepower, while June Mar Fajardo regained his footing down low, finishing with a double-double to lead the Beermen in erasing an early double-digit deficit.
“I thought we will lose again because they came out really strong, but we’re able to recover after the first half,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “They believe in our system and they executed.”
The Beermen try to move on the verge of a three-peat with a win in Game Four on Friday night also at the Big Dome.
Ross finished with a game-high 24 points on a solid 7-of-12 shooting, and missed a double-double by just two assists, on top of four boards, and one steal in 40 minutes, while backcourt partner Cabagnot added 20 markers highlighted by three triples, three boards, two assists, and two steals.
Fajardo anchored the middle and tallied 17 points, 18 boards, three blocks, three assists, and two steals in 38 minutes after coming off a Game Two loss where the reigning MVP was held to just 10 points on five attempts before fouling out.
Marcio Lassiter stayed on target – but without the extra celebration this time as he knocked down two triples on the way to finishing 16 points, six boards, and two steals, against only one foul in 41 minutes after getting ejected in the previous outing.
The Beermen had to produce another balanced effort to break away from a tight battle against a shorthanded Gin Kings side that was missing Jervy Cruz.
Joe Devance, another hurting Ginebra player, put Ginebra on top with a triple that made it 88-87, but that turned out to be their last basket in the last four minutes as the Beermen pulled away, with Fajardo putting them ahead for good with a three-point play on the other end.
LA Tenorio led the Gin Kings with 16 points, five assists, and five boards, while five other teammates scored at least eight points apiece that still proved insufficient.
SMB 99 – Ross 24, Cabagnot 20, Fajardo 17, Lassiter 16, Santos 9, Tubid 6, Reyes 3, Heruela 2, Espinas 2, Garcia 0
GINEBRA 88 - Tenorio 16, Ferrer 15, Aguilar 12, Ellis 12, Caguioa 11, Thompson 8, Devance 6, Mercado 5, Marcelo 3, Helterbrand 0, Taha 0
Quarterscores: 19-24, 44-49, 69-66, 99-88