And then there were four.
With a Game 1 déjà vu looming in the poor third quarter they displayed, the second-seeded San Miguel Beermen completed the semis cast as they outplay the Meralco Bolts in the payoff period and score a 102-86 held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on winner-take-all Monday.
The Beermen opened up the game with good floor spacing that led to wide open jumpers from their locals. Meanwhile, an aggressive Arizona Reid bullied his way to give the Beermen a 13-5 lead heading to the first timeout of the game. On the other end and just like the first game of this series, the Bolts started slow as they only made two of their first eight shots. As the second unit players slowly being deployed in the game, Gary David and Chris Ross made quick buckets to chip in their team’s scoring.
Fortunately for the Beermen, the shots were not falling consistently for the Bolts while they continued to share the ball and executing patient offense on their end. Arwind Santos knocked down three treys in the first that already surpassed his total output during the last game. The pace of the Beermen was on-point as a fastbreak by Alex Cabagnot and AZ Reid made it a 30-16 game at the tail-end of the opening frame.
SMB fed the post particularly to June Mar Fajardo as the big man delivered his team’s first five points in the second half to restore a double-digit cushion for his team. Meralco made some shots to cut the lead, but every mini-rally was answered by the Beermen as San Miguel maintained their distance against the trailing Bolts. A 15-8 start gave SMB a double-digit edge halfway through the third but Andre Emmett started to make noise and carry his team to slice the lead to four, 62-58.
The Bolts’ rally was intensified with a couple of more stops as they denied the entry passes by San Miguel and Jarred Dillinger scoring five more points for Meralco. The rally was extinguished by Reid’s floater and Macio Lassiter’s free throw in the last minute of the quarter but they only had a two-point lead heading into the last quarter.
Simon Atkins was assessed of a technical foul that led to a free point for SMB prior to the start the fourth and a triple by Ronald Tubid gave them a 71-65 cushion once again. Despite Andre Emmett punching in a three-pointer, Lassiter fired two of his own off two great passes and distance themselves by double digits.
Looking to ice the game with less than six minutes to go in the game, the defense of San Miguel stood tall as they play man-to-man and force the Bolts to highly-contested attempts. Two offensive rebounds in one play led to an easy Fajardo putback that extended their lead to 87-73. Meralco looked to make one last run as Gary David scored six points, three from free throws to make it a single-digit lead.
After a timely timeout by San Miguel to halt any necessary run by the Bolts, Ronald Tubid dialed in a tough corner three-ball to break the chances by the Bolts. Another stop on the other end led to two more free throws by Reid to increase their lead.
San Miguel was plus eight from the foul stripe and they also outrebounded the Bolts, 44-38. They also had more paint points, 50-32 and shot 54% compared to Meralco’s 44% clip. Reid tallied 29 points and 11 boards despite committing 9 turnovers. Fajardo had another monstrous outing with 22pts and 16rebounds. Emmett led the losing Bolts with a 28 and 12 line.
The semifinals series between the San Miguel Beermen and Rain or Shine will be played on Thursday, 7pm at the Big Dome. On the other series, Alaska and Star will face off on Wednesday.
San Miguel(102) – Reid 29, Fajardo 22, Lassiter 17, Santos 15, Tubid 8, Espinas 5, Ross 2, Lutz 2, Cabagnot 2, Semerad 0
Meralco(86) – Emmett 28, Hugnatan 17, David 16, Cortez 7, Hodge 5, Dillinger 5, Nabong 5, Anthony 3, Caram 0, Guevarra 0, Atkins 0, Ando 0
Quarters: 30-18, 49-42, 67-65, 102-86