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On to the Finals: San Miguel eliminates Rain or Shine to set-up PH Cup rematch

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So it’s Beer versus Milk in the PBA Finals once again.

Surviving another late-game rally, the San Miguel Beermen advance to the Governor’s Cup championship after defeating the gritty Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 117-110 and book a date with the Alaska Aces in the finals.

The game started with an impressive shootout between the two teams as the squads raced to 16 points each in just 5 minutes of action. During the stretch, both were fiery as they made five of their first eight shot attempts. Rain or Shine got a slim lead at 18-16 with a Jericho Cruz basket but the close exchange was halted by SMB’s defense. The Beermen closed out the first quarter on a fiery 15-2 rampage in the last five minutes of the quarter as the frontcourt big duo of June Mar Fajardo and Arizona Reid already tallied ten markers apiece.

Ronald Tubid and Gabby Espinas extended the lead with a 5-0 spurt to start the second quarter. The double-digit lead was maintained by the Beermen until the three-minute mark of the period as June Mar Fajardo was subbed out as he got down after a collision. SMB then committed three straight turnovers in the last minutes of the first half that led to Rain or Shine trimming the lead down to seven with a mini 8-2 run. Fortunately for San Miguel, they were able to hold the grip in the game and stretch the lead to 14 just as the first half expired as Marcio Lassiter scored five of the Beermen’s last seven points including a buzzer-beating trifecta.

AZ Reid made the opening basket of the second half to raise the lead to 16, while Rain or Shine managed to chop it in half quickly with the locals providing jump shots. A couple of SMB stops enabled them to run in transition and extend their lead once again to double figures while also making their free throws. Turnovers and missed outside shots hurt RoS during the third as the Beermen were able to end the quarter strong and end it on top by 19 points.

Just as common to the familiar theme in this PBA semis, Rain or Shine fought back in the fourth period and attempted another comeback against SMB. They scored nine points to start the last quarter in less than two minutes to slice off and make it a 10-point lead. Despite Reid and Chris Lutz providing perimeter jumpers to salvage some points, the Painters were able to push their run and make it a 108-104 game with over three minutes to go. Timely stops and baskets, fortunately, went the way of San Miguel in the late stretch of the game as even 50-50 balls went their way. An Arwind Santos triple restored SMB’s edge while Arizona Reid put on the finishing touches against his former squad.

Despite shooting 37 attempts, Reid paced SMB with 38 points and 11 rebounds. Fajardo had another stellar outing to cap off his semifinals stint with 27 points on 10-of-12 shooting. McKines also had a fine exit for the Painters with 25 markers and 17 rebounds.

Game 1 of the Best-of-seven finals series between the San Miguel Beer and Alaska Aces will begin on Friday, 7pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:

San Miguel Beer (117) – Reid 38, Fajardo 27, Santos 15, Lassiter 12, Cabagnot 11, Espinas 6, Ross 5, Lutz 3, Tubid 0

Rain or Shine (110) – McKines 25, Chan 21, Norwood 15, Lee 13, Almazan 9, Quiñahan 8, Cruz 7, Tiu 5, Araña 4, Ibañes 2, Belga 1, Uyloan 0

Quarters: 31-20, 64-50, 93-74, 117-110

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily scrutinized on Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena during a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started when they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running body.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed the incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate on what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena — with whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal — the 24-year-old shared that he had approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he has scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded, as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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