The defending champions San Miguel Beermen made quick work of settling their quarterfinal pairing against the NLEX Road Warriors, 114-110, to be the first team to advance to the final four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Elijah Millsap survived foul trouble, dropping 39 points on 11-of-24 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds. June Mar Fajardo added 17 points and 13 rebounds.
“I know from the start that this will not be an easy game for us,” San Miguel head coach Leo Austria said about the win. “This is a good lesson for us.”
Henry Walker waxed hot in the first quarter alone, drilling five triples for the Road Warriors. However, an aggressive San Miguel team countered by fishing for fouls and accumulating points from the foul stipe to lift themselves in a close, 24-23 opening quarter tilt.
The second unit of the two teams found themselves in a closely-contested second quarter until the five minute mark, where the score was tight at 46-44 in favor of San Miguel. Then came the starters of the Beermen, who injected a booming 17-4 run to close the half, powered by a flurry of triples from Marcio Lassiter and Elijah Millsap.
“I’m happy for Elijah, he’s willing to take over,” Austria said about his reinforcement.
Unfortunately for the Beermen, they were tested with a tidal wave of baskets from Walker and his troops as the double-digit barrier vanished by the fourth quarter. Walker punched in a triple with five minutes left to tie the game at 98 and successfully claw their way back from as high as 17.
After a serious exchange of clutch hits from the two sides, the Beermen found themselves up, 105-102 in the tense moments. Marcio Lassiter and Jonas Villanueva, afterwards, exchanged big time triples with a minute left. Fortunately for the defending champions, it would be NLEX’s last hurrah, with Alex Cabagnot making big free throws in the dying seconds to close-out the game.
“We will not win a championship if we do not improve our defense,” Austria lamented as his team had allowed NLEX to shoot 45 percent from the field.
Walker led the Road Warriors with 45 points. Jonas Villanueva added 17 markers.
The Beermen await of the winner of the Barangay Ginebra-Alaska quarters. Game One of the best-of-five semis will be on Monday, 7:00pm, also at the Big Dome.
San Miguel (114) – Millsap 39, Fajardo 17, Cabagnot 14, Lassiter 14, Santos 11, Espinas 7, Tubid 6, Ross 4, De Ocampo 2.
NLEX (110) – Walker 45, J. Villanueva 17, Lanete 13, Taulava 13, Anthony 11, E Villanueva 6, Khobuntin 3, Alas 2, Akl 0, Monfort 0, Baracael 0.
Quarterscores: 24-23, 63-48, 86-82, 114-110.
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