SMB ties series, gains momentum

Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2016 - 9:00am

Game Wednesday (MOA Arena)

7 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel


MANILA, Philippines – Out with the sweet sweep, four times to beat, thrice to beat, and twice to beat.

A determined San Miguel erased all that and will go all out to change the course of history as the combatants in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup finals go at each other one last time in a deciding Game Seven Wednesday.

Sustaining their dramatic comeback from the ashes, June Mar Fajardo and his SMB teammates came out smoking in the final quarter and kept Alaska Milk at bay with clinical precision to secure a 100-89 victory to force a 3-3 standoff in the best-of-seven titular playoff to the delight of a crowd of nearly 13,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter teamed up in a decisive 16-2 opening binge in the payoff period and the Beermen broke away from a tight 67-66 count, making history as the first PBA team ever to come back from 0-3 down and forge a winner-take-all match.

Either team will make history as they fight for all the marbles.

“The heart of the champion prevailed,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria moments after Game Six.

“They say this is history in the making. But I must insist we’ve achieved nothing yet. We’ve just tied the series,” Austria also said.

“Each and everyone of us is happy. We’re comfortable and we’re enjoying the moment. Nakakatakot kalaban yon,” said Arwind Santos, confident they can complete an epic feat.

Fajardo played longer minutes in his second game in his return from injury and provided tremendous lift in the final quarter.

“The big key is June Mar’s inside presence. Since we have a post threat again, it opens things up for guys like Marcio Lassiter,” said Austria.

Lassiter led all scorers with 26 points, including 17 in the last quarter, while Fajardo piled up 16 markers, seven rebounds, two steals, one block and one assist against two turnovers.

Yancy de Ocampo, Alex Cabagnot and Santos were the other Beermen who finished in double figures while Vic Manuel topscored for the Aces with 21 points.

“We played well in the first half. We’re back as the Alaska team. But we ended up missing some shots and committing turnovers. Credit to their defense,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.

“Now the pressure is really on us,” Compton added.

The two teams engaged in a fierce seesawing battle before the Beermen broke loose on the key run by Fajardo and Lassiter.

Fajardo scored on a post play off Noy Baclao then Lassiter fired a trey to spark their bristling attack, which opened an 83-68 lead for the Beermen with 7:46 left to play.

The Cebuano behemoth beat the buzzer with a putback as San Miguel took the half at 51-49.

The two teams then fought tooth and nail through the next quarter with the Beermen barely staying on top at 67-66.

Earlier, Cabagnot converted a tough reverse shot to cap a run pushing San Miguel up at 38-37 from 13-point down at 22-35.

The Aces took the early initiative behind a relentless pressing defense forcing the San Miguel guards to numerous turnovers. Alaska enjoyed a 14-6 lead on points off turnovers in the first half.

Fajardo played 8:39 minutes in the opening half, coming through with six points, two rebounds, one steal and one block. De Ocampo held the fort while on the floor, putting in 12 markers, five boards and three assists.

Baclao had his own buzzer-beater with a baseline jumper off Fajardo as the Aces sat on a 29-22 lead in the opening frame.


The scores:

SAN MIGUEL 100 – Lassiter 26, Fajardo 16, De Ocampo 14, Cabagnot 10, Santos 10, Ross 8, Tubid 7, Espinas 4, Heruela 2, Lutz 2, Araña 1.

ALASKA 89 – Manuel 21, Abueva 17, Jazul 13, Casio 11, Thoss 8, Baclao 6, Banchero 6, Menk 3, Baguio 2, Exciminiano 2, Dela Cruz 0, Hontiveros 0.

Quarterscores: 22-29, 51-49, 67-66, 100-89

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