Beermen halt Aces, reach final Kings also out to end series

Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Star
Beermen halt Aces, reach final Kings also out to end series
June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel loses the ball as he tries to shoulder past the double team defense of Sonny Thoss and Kevin Racal of Alaska in their semifinal game last night at the Big Dome.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Beer dug deep into its inner reserves to buck Alaska Milk’s now-or-never stand, fashioning out a tough 104-99 win to nail down the first berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

The Aces refused to give up but neither did the Beermen give in as they fought it out every inch of the way before SMB fought like the champion of old and settled the issue in the dying minutes.

The win sent the Beermen to their seventh finals in the last 11 conferences and lined them up for a shot at a possible second jewel of a possible grand slam.

“Our 24-point loss the last game was an embarrassment for the team. It touched the guys’ pride, and no wonder they’re all so focused in this game,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria in their fightback from their 104-125 blowout defeat in Game Three.

“The energy was too low the last time. Tonight, from the start, I could see in their eyes their eagerness to close out the series,” Austria added.

The Beermen did come out to fight with a dogged determination, outlasting the Aces in a grind-out battle to advance to a 40th finale overall.

They shoot for a seventh crown in four years and 26th in all either against the Barangay Ginebra Kings or the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. It will either be a sixth SMB-Ginebra championship or a first-ever SMB-ROS title playoff.

The Gin Kings take their first of two shots at wrapping up their own series versus the E-Painters at 7 p.m. tonight, also at the Big Dome.

June Mar Fajardo and Renaldo Balkman piled up double-double numbers while backcourt players Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross delivered their own solid all-around efforts as the Beermen stretched their playoff domination of the Aces.

With the loss, the Aces stayed without a crown since winning their last in the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup under coach Luigi Trillo.

The scores: 

San Miguel 104 – Fajardo 26, Balkman 23, Cabagnot 18, Ross 17, Lassiter 8, Nabong 6, Santos 4, Standhardinger 2, Heruela 0.

Alaska 99 – Simpson 24, Manuel 20, Enciso 19, Casio 15, Teng 6, Racal 4, Exciminiano 4, Magat 3, Thoss 2, Baclao 2, Cruz 0, Galliguez 0. 

Quarterscores: 20-23, 43-44, 76-69, 104-99

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