Chris McCullough showed nerves of steel in the endgame, leading San Miguel’s 99-94 come-from-behind win over TNT to move on the verge of the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title, Wednesday at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
McCullough sank a tough lay-up all over Terrence Jones’ defense to give his side the 95-94 lead with 26.5 seconds left to play, before coolly sinking both of his freebies 13 seconds later to complete SMB’s comeback from 16 down.
The lanky 6-foot-10 forward finished with 35 points and 22 rebounds, to go with four assists and three blocks.
“There were a lot of players who could take the shot … But I opted to stick with C-Mac. I wanted him to get the ball because I can see it in his eyes that he really wanted to win tonight. That’s what happened,” said coach Leo Austria.
Terrence Romeo provided the spark off the bench with 22 points, while June Mar Fajardo had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Beermen appeared to be doomed already when Terrence Jones scored and assisted in the KaTropa’s 9-0 blitz, which turned their seven-point lead late in the third canto to a wide 85-69 advantage with 10:41 to go in the fourth quarter.
But San Miguel crawled back from such a wide gap. With McCullough taking the wheel, they eventually found themselves knocking within just two, 91-93, after Christian Standhardinger canned his free throws with 2:42 to go.
Terrence Jones split his foul shots with 2:21 left to widen TNT’s lead to three. But that would actually be the last time that the KaTropa made a basket as Jones himself missed crucial baskets and committed measly turnovers.
One of the former NBA cager’s turnovers happened at around 38 ticks remaining, which allowed the Beermen to call for time and draw up a play that eventually ended up with McCullough’s lay-up that gave SMB the lead with 25.6 left.
Jones tried to will his side again but his lay-up missed with 15 seconds left no thanks to the challenge by Christian Standhardinger. McCullough secured the miss, and he was sent to the line as TNT had no choice but to freeze the clock.
McCullough sank his foul shots to give San Miguel a 97-94 lead with 13.3 seconds left. Troy Rosario tried to tie the game up but his triple missed. Chris Ross got the ball and was fouled, and he sank his own freebies to seal the win.
“I’m happy with the players because they accepted their role, especially Christian Standhardinger. He is my hero tonight. Even though he’s not scoring or getting a lot playing time, he did his role really well in containing Jones,” said Austria.
Jones only had three points in the fourth but he still finished with 35 points, 18 rebounds, and eight dimes to lead TNT.
Jayson Castro had 18 points, five rebounds, and four assists to lead the locals. Rosario supplied 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while Roger Pogoy chimed in 12 markers, five boards, two steals, and two blocks.
The potential title-clincher that is Game Six will be on Friday, August 16, 7:00 p.m. still at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
San Miguel 99 – McCullough 35, Romeo 22, Fajardo 16, Pessumal 9, Ross 7, Cabagnot 4, Standhardinger 4, Santos 2.
TNT 94 – Jones 35, Castro 18, Rosario 16, Pogoy 12, Trollano 7, D. Semerad 6, Taha 0, Reyes 0, Heruela 0, Magat 0.
Quarterscores: 22-28, 45-49, 69-80, 99-94.