San Miguel center and reigning league Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo rises for short stab against Barangay Ginebra defenders, Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City. The Beermen, also the reigning all-Filipino champions,  defeated the Gin Kings, punching their 39th Finals appearance and booking a fourth straight trip to the conference Finals. | PBA Images

Beermen dispose of pesky Kings, enter Philippine Cup finals anew
Denison Rey A. Dalupang ( - March 17, 2018 - 8:30pm

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Beer flipped their lethal switch in the second period to douse Barangay Ginebra’s hot start. They kept their feet on the pedal up until the fourth period to frustrate the Gin Kings, 100-94, and enter the PBA Philippine Cup Finals for the fourth straight time, Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.

June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter flashed their grizzled forms before a mix of frenzied fans and Ginebra legend Robert Jaworski Sr., tallying 25 and 23 points respectively. 

The Gin Kings after leading 10-2 early into the tussle, tapped in to their “Never Say Die” mantra late in the payoff period to claw back into the game. Japeth Aguilar, Jervy Cruz and Scottie Thompson spearheaded the charge with heroic performances of their own but Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter rendered futile all of that just as the clock expired. 

Cabagnot hit back-to-back baskets to break the knot at 94 while Marcio Lassiter put the icing on the cakes via two freebies, formalizing San Miguel’s entry into the final dance — their fourth straight in the all-Filipino since Leo Austria took over.

“I know from the very start that Ginebra will play hard and nakita naman natin eh. Talagang nag-all out sila ‘cause their backs are against the wall,” San Miguel head coach Leo Austria said.

"I have to give credit kay coach Tim Cone dahil hindi namin sila nakitaan ng white flag from the start," he said. "They came out really strong and prepared para makaisa uli to extend the series but our players refused to lose dahil alam nila ang importance ng game na ‘to: that we’re going back to the Finals."

Aguilar notched 32 points to lead all of Ginebra’s scorers while Thompson compiled a staggering triple double in 10 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists in the losing effort.

San Miguel and Ginebra figured in the the 2017 edition of the conference finals. The Beermen won that saga four games to one.

"Sabi nga nila, this is history in the making," Austria said. "You know, 'di na nila pinapansin kasi we’ve been through a lot eh.
But you know, it’s really hard."

“Four-peat? We will see,” the tactician closed. 

The victory affords San Miguel its 39th finals appearance in PBA history and their 12th in the prestigious conference.

The Beermen,  who have been the Philippine Cup champions in the last three years, await the winner of the Magnolia-NLEX series, which is currently tied at two games apiece. The Hotshots and Road Warriors tangle for a series lead on Sunday in Antipolo City.

The Scores:

SAN MIGUEL 100 — Fajardo 25, Lassiter 23, Ganuelas-Rosser 14, Cabagnot 12, Santos 11, Espinas 5, Ross 5, De Ocampo 4, Pessumal 1.

GINEBRA 94 — J. Aguilar 32, Mercado 14, Thompson 10, Devance 9, Ferrer 8, Tenorio 8, R. Aguilar 7, Cruz 4, Caguioa 2, Caperal 0.

Quarters: 25-34, 55-55, 83-76, 100-94.


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