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Alaska spoils Fajardo’s career-high

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Despite losing a 10-point cushion in the fourth, a resilient Alaska team survived a powerhouse joust against the San Miguel Beermen, 103-97 on a thrilling Wednesday evening, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen jumped out of a 6-0 start with Alex Cabagnot and Chris Lutz doing damage. June Mar Fajardo started his career night in dominating fashion, pitching eight points in SMB’s early blitz. The intensely-played match led to a quick ejection to Ryan Araña after hitting Calvin Abueva on one play. Despite the extra-curriculars of the period, SMB took control, 19-16.

Jumpers kept falling for San Miguel but Alaska’s bench kept them in the game. A 9-2 run in the middle of the period capped by an Eric Menk put back gave the Aces the lead at 32-31. Fajardo added a couple of baskets late in the first half, but it was the Aces who took a five point lead at the break.

Both teams struggled in defending without fouling as the two squads entered penalty situation early in the third. Aside from a couple of drives by Alex Cabagnot, San Miguel almost went exclusively to their MVP offensive-wise. Fajardo tallied 13 points during the period but Alaska’s energy, particularly in the final moments of the third, gave them a 74-64 cushion heading into the final frame of action.

Manuel opened the fourth quarter with a one-handed floater to extend the lead to a dozen. Slowly but surely, San Miguel crawled their way back in the game. By the 4:35 mark of the fourth, Fajardo, Santos, and Cabagnot combined for the Beermen’s late surge and successfully made it a one-point game at 84-85. After Chris Banchero completed a transition layup, Ronald Tubid swished in a game-tying three.

Free throws aided the Aces late despite Fajardo powering his way in the paint. A critical basket by Fajardo, followed by a baseline jumper off good ball movement by SMB gave them the lead, 94-93 with 1:22 left. After a timeout, it was the Aces’ turn with a play that led to a Manuel jam. Arwind missed a couple of heaves from downtown while the Aces capped the win with huge free throws.

Balanced scoring for the Aces yielded five of their players in double-figures. Thoss and Abueva had 18 and 17 respectively. Fajardo finished with a whopping 43 points and 20 rebounds in the loss. Cabagnot and Santos combined for 29.

Alaska, and Rain or Shine now hold an 8-2 record while San Miguel finished its elims with a 9-2 slate. Alaska has Barako Bull as its last game, while the Painters have the NLEX Road Warriors.

The scores:

Alaska (103) – Thoss 18, Abueva 17, Banchero 17, Manuel 12, Baguio 10, Jazul 9, Menk 6, Casio 5, Baclao 2, Dela Cruz, Dela Rosa 2, Exciminiano 2, Eman 1

San Miguel (97) – Fajardo 43, Cabagnot 19, Santos 10, Lutz 8, Tubid 6, Espinas 5, Heruela 2, Omolon 2, Ross 2

Quarterscores: 16-19, 40-37, 74-64, 103-97

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