The San Miguel Beermen are headed to their fourth straight Philippine Cup Finals, as they escaped the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 100-94, in Game Five of the semifinals Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Beermen will now head into their 39th Finals series overall, and will now wait for the winner of the NLEX Road Warriors-Magnolia Hotshots series for their opponent in the title match, which might commence on March 25.
“Alam namin ang Ginebra will come out hard because their backs are against the wall. But our players refused to lose,” said head coach Leo Austria, who has steered San Miguel to their sixth Finals appearance under his watch.
June Mar Fajardo powered San Miguel with 25 points and nine rebounds. Marcio Lassiter had 23 points and eight boards, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser made 14 markers and had eight caroms as well, and Arwind Santos had 11 and 13.
The Beermen had actually started slow, and it helped the opposition gain control, as they led by 12 points twice in the first half. But the Beermen found ways, and thanks to Fajardo and Co., the first half ended with a 55-all deadlock.
San Miguel then had enough leverage come the third chapter, converting a narrow four-point lead to a favorable 80-69 advantage with 2:37 remaining in tbe quarter thanks to an 11-3 rally ended by Ganuelas-Rosser’s bucket.
It had been thought that San Miguel’s on pace already to put Ginebra away for good, but the Gin Kings fought back in the final canto by pulling off a 12-4 scoring spree to regain the upper hand, 88-87, with 6:55 remaining.
An exchange of blows soon followed, until Ginebra seemingly let their guard down and allowed San Miguel to deliver the tough punches. Alex Cabagnot nailed two straight buckets to lift the Beermen up, 98-94, with 1:57 to go.
Lassiter’s freebies with 15.7 seconds left to play sealed the victory and punched the Beermen’s ticket to the Big Dance.
Cabagnot provided 12 points, five rebounds, and five assists with two steals for the Beermen.
The Barangay’s loss wasted the epic performance of Scottie Thompson, who had 10 markers, 16 rebounds, and 16 assists. Japeth Aguilar top-billed for Ginebra with 32 points, while Sol Mercado chimed in 14 points.
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.
Quarterscores: 25-34, 55-55, 83-76, 100-94.