Beermen oust Painters, duel Aces for title

Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star

Game tomorrow (Smart Araneta Coliseum)

5 p.m. – San Miguel vs Alaska


MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel Beer found other stars from the depth of its roster when its main man Junmar Fajardo took to the showers and held its own against Rain or Shine’s do-or-die stand to claim a 90-82 victory and the second berth in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup Finals last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen stayed together after Fajardo went down with an injured left knee early in the second half, launching key attacks late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to dispose of the E-Painters and set up an all-Filipino title rematch with the Alaska Milk Aces.

Squaring off for the crown for the third time in the last four conferences, San Miguel and Alaska start their best-of-seven showdown at 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Big Dome.

Fajardo, however, is doubtful as his left knee clipped after a bump from Rain or Shine forward Jireh Ibañes who’s positioning for a rebound.

The 6-foot-10 behemoth was carried on a stretcher to their dugout, then rushed to the St. Luke’s Hospital in Global City for necessary tests. Fajardo felt something in his knee snapped.

But the Beermen fought with a lion’s heart, almost everybody stepping up to close out the series in six games.

The titleholders won the best-of-seven semis playoff at 4-2 with earlier triumphs in Game One (109-105), Game Four (105-92) and Game Five (103-94).

“I’m very happy to win the game but sad on what happened to Junmar. We hope it’s not serious,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.

“Alaska will be a tough challenge. It’s hard to play them with their tough pressing defense. But whatever adversity we face with or without Junmar, we’ll take it,” Austria added.

Marcio Lassiter topscored with 22 points while Arwind Santos came through with 19 rebounds and 15 points as the Beermen finished off an ROS side handicapped by the absence of Raymond Almazan and Paul Lee.

Gabby Espinas and Yancy de Ocampo put in significant numbers as they combined for 13 points in subbing for Fajardo at center spot.

“I usually rotate only nine men. But I have other guys who can really step up,” said Austria.

Fajardo had collected 14 points and 12 rebounds before getting injured with 7:11 left in the third and the Beermen trailing at 49-52.

Fired up by the incident, the Beermen unleashed a decisive run that had them surging ahead at 70-63 going into the fourth quarter.

Espinas scored eight of his nine markers in the third period, including a short stab that eventually pushed SMB ahead at 56-55.

In a sudden momentum shift earlier, the E-Painters opened the second quarter with 12 unanswered points and went on to take the half at 46-37.

Rain or Shine led by as many as 15, 41-26, after holding San Miguel to a single field-goal basket in the first six minutes and 30 seconds of the second period.

The E-Painters took a nine-point halftime buffer largely behind a tough defensive effort forcing the Beermen to 16 turnovers.

The Beermen, however, quickly recovered, surging ahead at 56-55 six minutes into the second half.

SMB later built momentum even minus Fajardo, leading by nine at 70-61 before settling for a 70-63 margin going into the payoff period.


The scores:

SAN MIGUEL  90 – Lassiter 22, Santos 15, Fajardo 14, Espinas 9, Ross 8, Cabagnot 6, Tubid 6, Araña 4, De Ocampo 4, Lutz 2. 

RAIN OR SHINE 82 – Belga 16, Norwood 14, Ponferada 14, Chan 11, Ibañes 10, Cruz 6, Ahanmisi 5, Quiñahan 4, Trollano 2, Tiu 0.

Quarterscores: 19-16, 37-46, 70-63, 90-82

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