SAN Miguel knocked off top seed Phoenix, 105-94, and sealed a return trip to the PBA Philippine Cup finals on Thursday night.
The defending champion rode on the hot hands of Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot early on then survived a gritty fightback by the Fuel Masters to hold on to the win.
The Game 5 win at the Astrodome allowed the Beermen to wrap up the best-of-seven semis series, 4-1, and reach the all-Filipino finals for the fifth straight time - just two short of the record held by Purefoods.
"We're grateful to be back in the finals again," said coach Leo Austria. "Before the game, all we need was just a good start. And it just happened."
Ross and Cabagnot had a lot to do with that as the backourt pair combined for 29 first-half points as the Beermen took a 12-point edge at the break.
The lead ballooned to its biggest at 72-47 in the third quarter, but the Fuel Masters had one fight left in them.
Phoenix battled back behind Matthew Wright and diminutive LA Revilla, who brought the team back in the game. But a glaring referee error on an offensive foul called on Revilla cut the Fuel Masters' momentum.
Phoenix threatened for the last time at 98-94 but there was no denying the Beermen from securing their rightful place in the finals.
"We thought they will give up already. It's a human tendency. So nag relax (kami). Until we felt the pressure and then that's the time na nakahabol sila," said Austria.
Ross finished with 24 points on 5-of-12 shooting from three-point range, while adding six steals, three rebounds, and four assists.
Cabagnot fired 5-of-7 from downtown for 22 points, June Mar Fajardo added a double-double of 17 and 16 rebounds, while Arwind Santos also posted double digits in points (13) and rebounds (11).
Wright had 10 of his 20 points in the final quarter for Phoenix, while Justine Chua and Revilla added 18 and 15, respectively.
A big letdown for Phoenix was Calvin Abueva who finished with just a point but grabbed 10 rebounds. He was 0-of-7 from the field in his lowest output in four years, or since going scoreless for Alaska in the 2015 Commissioner's Cup.
San Miguel (105) - Ross 24, Cabagnot 22, Fajardo 17, Santos 12, Romeo 10, Pessumal 8, Standhardinger 6, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Lassiter 3, Tubid 0, Nabong 0.
Phoenix (94) - Wright 20, Chua 18, Revilla 15, Jazul 9, Perkins 8, Intal 6, Kramer 6, Mallari 4, Marcelo 3, Mendoza 2, Abueva 1, Dennison 0.
Quarterscores: 22-15; 51-39; 85-70; 105-94