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San Miguel downs Star, books first Finals ticket

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Tiebreaker Times San Miguel downs Star, books first Finals ticket Basketball News PBA  Star Hotshots San Miguel Beermen Ricardo Ratliffe PBA Season 42 Mark Barroca Leo Austria June Mar Fajardo Chris Ross Chito Victolero Allein Maliksi Alex Cabagnot 2017 PBA Commissioners Cup

San Miguel Beermen had to avert another furious late-game rally by Star Hotshots to escape Game Four, 109-102, and become the first team to qualify in the 2017 Commissioner’s Cup Finals, Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Beermen will go to the mid-season conference finals for the first time since 2001, when they lost to Red Bull in six games. The Hotshots, meanwhile, have now prolonged their Finals drought for eight conferences.

“What more can I ask for? I’m very happy for the players, kasi pinakita nila ang kanilang championship caliber,” lauded San Miguel head coach Leo Austria of him battle-tested team.

The guards did the wonders in the victory, with Alex Cabagnot leading the pack with 26 points alongside six caroms and five boards. Chris Ross had a double-double of 24 markers spiked by four treys and 10 assists.

SMB were already up 17, 93-76, with 9:31 in the payoff period, but the Hotshots’ ability to climb back was showcased once more as they closed within three, 101-98, after a 23-8 spree ended by Paul Lee corner trey with 1:25 left to play.

Charles Rhodes’ charities widened the Beermen’s lead, 103-98, but Ricardo Ratliffe’s hook shot pushed Star closer again, 103-100, with 30 ticks to go. That, however, proved to be the Hotshots’ final gasp in the bout.

Marcio Lassiter, June Mar Fajardo, and Cabagnot scored San Miguel’s final six points from their free throws in the waning moments, enough to pin the Hotshots down and out as they walk away with the Finals ticket.

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“I have to commend the coaching staff of Star dahil piniga nila kami,” said Austria of their rivals, who they beat by just an average margin of just 3.33 points.

Fajardo finished with 22 points on nine shots with eight boards, while Rhodes had 21 markers on 63 percent shooting to go with 10 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks.

Ratliffe led Star with a game-high 36 points on 58 percent shooting, 17 rebounds, and two blocks. Allein Maliksi had 16, while Mark Barroca and Ian Sangalang had 13 and 11 points, respectively.

SMB will now wait for the winner of the winner of the Barangay Ginebra-TNT Katropa series for their opponents in the title bout. And for Austria, he and the Beermen are ready to face either of the two squads.

“Kahit sino, welcome sa amin,” the four-time champion mentor shared.

The Scores:

San Miguel (109) – Cabagnot 26, Ross 24, Fajardo 22, Rhodes 21, Lassiter 8, Santos 4, Heruela 3, Espinas 1, Tubid 0.

Star (102) – Ratliffe 36, Maliksi 16, Barroca 13, Sangalang 11, Ramos 9, Lee 8, Jalalon 6, Simon 3, Melton 0, Reavis 0.

Quarterscores: 29-27, 52-49, 83-69, 109-102.

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