Having been on the verge of being swept, they are now a win away from sealing another championship. Incredible.
For the third straight game, the San Miguel Beermen kept the balloons in the rafters as they successfully extended the PBA Finals to a do-or-die game, after dismantling the Alaska Aces in the final quarter, 100-89, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday evening.
Alaska dictated the opening quarter, as their running game paced them to the early lead. They also surpassed the three free throw attempts they had in total back in Game 6. Vic Manuel and Calvin Abueva led the team to a 12-5 closeout, which gave them a 29-22 advantage after the first 12 minutes.
A handful of stops by the Aces allowed them to further increase their lead in the next quarter. RJ Jazul continued the bench mob for Alaska, as they extended their lead to as much as 13, 35-22, during the first half.
But San Miguel dug in and hit back, going on a 19-4 rampage via the trio of De Ocampo, Cabagnot, and Santos. Alaska also piled up a the number of miscues down the stretch of the first half. Meanwhile, June Mar Fajardo broke the 49-all tally with a buzzer-beating put-back that gave SMB a slight lead.
With the main protagonists of the two teams starting the new half, Alaska surged first through Manuel and Abueva. The Aces had another eight-point cushion in the middle of the quarter, but the Beermen kept the pace and the pressure up. Despite the slow start, SMB took a one-point lead heading into the fourth, with Yancy De Ocampo and Gabby Espinas making up the points.
In the blink of an eye, San Miguel pulled away in the fourth quarter, as momentum took a full swing in their favor. Marcio Lassiter knocked down two triples, while Fajardo feasted in the paint to help the Beermen build a double-digit lead at 79-68 in just three minutes.
The duo combined to push their lead to 15 points, providing a tidal wave of pressure against last year’s bridesmaid finishers. JVee Casio knocked down two big threes to help Alaska build a final run. However, Lassiter responded with another swish from downtown to halt the Aces’ run and put the nail in the coffin.
San Miguel ended the match plus-12 from downtown and scored 13 more points from the foul stripe. Despite the loss, the Aces had more points in the paint, 46-38.
Lassiter finished with 26 points, 9 rebounds, four 3-pointers, and 8/8 from free throw area. After the game, he expressed his delight at how the team has pushed themselves forward. “Everyone was stepping up tonight. The other game it was Chris (Ross), last game was Arwind (Santos), and now it’s my turn to step up. It was a team effort. My teammates found me when I got it going”.
In addition, he noted that they must take the final game of the series with the same approach they had in their past three wins. “We’re gonna take it the same as Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6. Our backs are against the wall and we’re just gonna shoot ourselves to Game 7. Just gonna keep on fighting, constant effort and keep out playing aggressive”, said Lassiter.
Fajardo added 16 in another productive outing off the bench in 22 minutes. For the Aces, Vic Manuel ended the night with 21 markers, while Abueva added 13.
The winner-take-all Game 7 of this series will be played on Wednesday, Feb. 3, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
San Miguel(100) – Lassiter 26, Fajardo 16, De Ocampo 14, Cabagnot 10, Santos 10, Ross 8, Tubid 7, Espinas 4, Lutz 2, Heruela 2, Arana 1
Alaska(89) – Manuel 21, Abueva 17, Jazul 13, Casio 11, Thoss 8, Banchero 6, Baclao 6, Menk 3, Exciminiano 2, Baguio 2, Hontiveros 0
The scores: 22-29, 51-49, 67-66, 100-89
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