The San Miguel Beermen’s aspirations of securing their fourth straight Philippine Cup title are now within reach as they escaped the Magnolia Hotshots, 84-80, in the Finals’ Game Four, Wednesday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen are now up with a commanding 3-1 lead in the race-to-four series, and will have a chance to turn their dreams into reality in Game Five this Friday, April 6, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. Tip-off is at 7:00 PM.
“This game is a do-or-die for Magnolia, and credit to their coaching staff, they were able to come up with a good game plan in defense,” said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria. “They want to outrun us and they succeeded. But my team is focused on this game, and defensively we were able to stop them from scoring a lot.
“We gave up only 80 points. I’m crediting it to their defense. They were able to limit us on offense. But these players have the heart of champions, they know how to lose, they know how to win, how to become winners. I’m very thankful sa mga players na ito because they know what’s the importance of this game,” he added.
Alex Cabagnot led the defending champions with 27 points, but it was Arwind Santos who emerged as the hero that San Miguel needed, as he nailed two crucial freebies with 2.2 ticks left to play to repel the pesky Hotshots.
The Spiderman’s foul shots closed the door on Magnolia’s furious comeback from seven points down, 82-75, with 1:58 remaining, a rally spearheaded by steady big man Ian Sangalang thanks to his lay-up and a three-point play conversion.
Santos finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Marcio Lassiter supplied 18 markers on 7-of-17 shooting with four boards and two steals, and newly-minted Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo provided 16 points, 13 caroms, and three blocks.
Chris Ross only scored four points, but still made an impact in the match as he collected eight rebounds, seven assists, and two steals in over 32 minutes.
The Beermen are on pace to secure the golden hardware. But even if they’re just a few inches away from picking up the trophy, Austria remains wary, as he knows that the Hotshots will map out a way to retaliate on Friday.
“Alam naman natin na ang isang tao, kapag nasasaktan, ilalabas lahat ng makakaya. I’m sure they will work really hard for next game but they only have one day to prepare. It’s really hard but they will try because this is an opportunity for them to redeem themselves,” said Austria.
“But we’re smelling the championship and I’m sure my players will be different players come Friday’s game. I hope ma-sustain namin ang energy namin and ang pagnanasa namin na makuha ang fourth championship. But it’s very far from over because Magnolia is a team to beat, a contender, and they showed it tonight,” he added.
The 6-foot-7 Sangalang led Magnolia with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Rome Dela Rosa flirted with a double-double of 15 points and nine caroms, and Mark Barroca garnered 14 markers, nine boards, three steals, and two assists.
Magnolia only had one more foul than San Miguel, 22-21, but there was a huge disparity in free throws, as Beermen shot 15-of-20 from the line, while the Hotshots only went 3-for-7, with 2-of-4 coming from Sangalang.
According to the league’s chief statistician Fidel Mangonon, San Miguel are at a 3-1 lead, after which 48 of 52 teams overall have always gone on to win 92 percent of the time, inclusive of a higher 95 percent (35 of 37 times) in the PBA Finals.
San Miguel 84 – Cabagnot 27, Lassiter 18, Fajardo 16, Santos 13, Ganuelas-Rosser 5, Ross 4, Espinas 1, Heruela 0, Pessumal 0.
Magnolia 80 – Sangalang 22, Dela Rosa 15, Barroca 14, Lee 9, Reavis 6, Simon 5, Jalalon 4, Ramos 3, Pascual 2, Gamalinda 0.
Quarterscores: 14-20, 45-46, 69-64, 84-80.