The San Miguel Beermen inched closer in reaching the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals after frustrating the Alaska Aces, 105-94, in Game Two of the semifinals, Monday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The defending champions had to overcome a 16-point deficit early in the first half before finishing the match strong en route to a 2-0 series lead. SMB now have the chance to sweep Alaska this Wednesday, still at the Big Dome.
“Nahirapan talaga kami ng first half. Buti na lang nag-step up and we realized na threatening ang kanilang nilalaro. Makikita naman natin na all-out sila. We’re lucky na we’re able to come back,” said head coach Leo Austria.
Renaldo Balkman led the Beermen with 31 points and 10 rebounds – this, despite having five fouls and seven turnovers. BPC candidate June Mar Fajardo provided 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 18 rebounds.
The Beermen found it hard to gain footing early – no thanks to the Aces’ gritty defense – so much so that they were limited to just 18 points in the first quarter. San Miguel even went down deep, 41-25, in the second frame.
San Miguel though were able to get their juices flowing come the third canto. As Chris Ross waxed hot from beyond the arc by sinking three straight triples, the Beermen tied things up at 54-all with 8:33 on the clock.
That then set up the tight battle between the two squads, which saw numerous lead changes and deadlocks.
The Aces were able to take an 80-79 advantage with 10:29 to go in the final frame, but that proved to be their last taste of the lead, as San Miguel replied with a Balkman-led 18-7 rally to post their first-ever double-digit lead, 97-87, with 2:55 left.
Back-to-back triples by Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot inside the final 1:07 of the match served as the finishing touches of the victory.
“We’re happy, na in the second half, nag-step up ang mga players ko sa defense. I think, that’s the key,” lauded Austria of his Beermen, who held the Milkmen to just 37.5 percent shooting in the second half after shooting 50 percent in the first.
Ross finished with 16 points on an excellent 6-of-8 shooting from the floor, while Cabagnot flirted with a double-double as he produced 14 markers and eight assists. Cabagnot also collected a game-high four steals.
Diamon Simpson led the Aces with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and a game-best six blocks. Simon Enciso made 19 markers as well, while Vic Manuel finished with 15 points – his second straight game of being held below 20 points.
San Miguel 105 – Balkman 31, Fajardo 21, Ross 16, Cabagnot 14, Lassiter 8, Santos 5, Nabong 5, Heruela 3, Standhardinger 2.
Alaska 94 – Simpson 19, Enciso 19, Manuel 15, Teng 13, Casio 12, Thoss 6, Cruz 5, Galliguez 3, Racal 2, Exciminiano 0, Baclao 0.
Quarterscores: 18-29, 41-52, 79-74, 105-94
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