San Miguel made sure that there won’t be any mismanagement like the last time out as it took care of business against Meralco, 100-89, to reach the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, Wednesday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen showed how much they’ve learned from their previous encounter three nights ago, jumping to a 20-6 lead to set the tone for what became an anticlimactic end to the best-of-seven semis series between the budding rivals.
“That’s a lesson learned for all the players, dahil sinasabi namin kailangan ipakita niyo ‘yung killer instict. That’s the character of the team before,” said head coach Leo Austria, referring to their Game 6 meltdown.
June Mar Fajardo finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds to lead SMB, who’s returning to the Finals for the first time since the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup. It was also the last time that the proud ball club won a title.
Their foesthen was TNT, who will also be their opponents in the title bout set to start on Sunday. It is, moreover, a rematch of the 2021 Philippine Cup semis that saw the Tropang Giga win in seven on the way to the crown.
“Proud ako sa mga teammates ko. Nag-step up lahat, lalo na sa game na ‘to. Sana tuloy-tuloy hanggang Finals,” said Fajardo.
CJ Perez supplied a full line of 18 points, nine assists, five steals, four rebounds, and two steals in 30 minutes. Marcio Lassiter provided 16 points, including nine in the opening period to spark the fiery start.
Vic Manuel made 13 points, while guard Jericho Cruz added 12 markers in the victory that saw SMB shoot 54.2-percent from the field.
“‘Yung mga players na ito ay gustong mag-champion eh. Kailangan ma-motivate pa rin sila ng importance of winning a championship,” Austria said.
Meanwhile, Cliff Hodge had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead Meralco in the loss, where the crew trailed by as much as 23 points in the third canto.
Chris Newsome had 14 points while Aaron Black chipped in 13 for the Bolts, who tried to replicate their Game Six rally by closing in within 10 with 5:26 left until Simon Enciso and the rest of San Miguel fired back to finish it off.
San Miguel 100 – Fajardo 29, Perez 18, Lassiter 16, Manuel 13, Cruz 12, Tautuaa 7, Enciso 5, Brondial 0
Meralco 89 – Hodge 23, Newsome 14, Black 13, Almazan 12, Banchero 8, Hugnatan 8, Quinto 7, Maliksi 4, Pasaol 0, Jose 0, Pascual 0
Quarterscores: 26-12, 45-31, 73-54, 100-89.
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.