The San Miguel Beermen are headed to the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup Finals as they frustrated the upset-hungry Alaska Aces, 104-99, in Game Four of their semifinal series, Sunday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The defending champions will have a chance to defend their throne against either the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel or the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Ginebra currently leads the series, 2-1, and can finish it off on Monday.
“First of all I would like to thank God for this good closeout sa series na ito,” said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria, who’s now in his seventh Finals trip. “I know na since three years ago, Alaska is one of the toughest team in the league.
“Even though they’re down 0-2, they’re fighting back. Tonight’s game, you can never know what will happen. It’s a 50-50 game. But what we learned in our last game when they beat us by 24 points, that’s an embarrassment for us,” the decorated tactician furthered. “The players’ pride, nakiliti eh. They stepped up tonight. They’re so focused in this game.”
June Mar Fajardo was on the forefront of the Beermen’s attack with 26 points amd 12 rebounds, while Renaldo Balkman — despite hurting his knee for a bit in the third quarter — provided 26 points, 16 boards, and five assists.
Alex Cabagnot was the third-best scorer for San Miguel with 18 points along with nine assists. But he was actually the one who bailed the Beermen out of the Aces’ clutches, all thanks to the big shots he made late in the game.
As Alaska knocked to within distance, 90-94, with 2:46 remaining in the match, Cabagnot sunk a tough jumper as a response, and a booming triple of him with 34.3 seconds left gave San Miguel a 100-92 advantage.
And when the Aces surged back again from that deficit, the reigning Commissioner’s Cup Finals Most Valuable Player put out the backstop by draining his freebies in the final 3.9 seconds to settle the final score.
“I’m so happy kay Alex, ‘yung kanyang pagiging clutch, andoon na naman,” praised Austria of Cabagnot.
Chris Ross chimed in 17 points, five rebounds, and four assists in the victory.
The Aces, who last had a Finals excursion back in the 2016 edition of the mid-season joust and lost, were led by Diamon Simpson with 24 points and 21 rebounds. Vic Manuel had 20 points, while Simon Enciso had 19 markers.
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, Galliguez 0
Quarterscores: 20-23, 43-44, 76-69, 104-99