San Miguel averted a meltdown before holding off the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters, 105-94, to finish their semifinal series in five games and book the first ticket to the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, Thursday night at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Terrence Romeo knocked down a jumper with 1:08 left to play before the other Beermen sunk their freebies to shut the door close for the Fuel Masters, who inched within four with 2:32 to go after being down 25 in the third.
“We’re so grateful we’re back in the Finals,” said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria, who has steered his side to its ninth Finals appearance under his watch. “All we need is to have a good start (9-2 to open the game) and it happened.
“We’re able to make it up to twenty-plus points and we thought they gave up. Nagrelax until we felt the pressure. That’s the time nakahabol sila. Fortunately, we have players like Terrence, his two points were crucial,” the former Coach of the Year added.
The Beermen have booked their fifth consecutive All-Filipino Finals trip with the victory. They will now wait for the winner between Magnolia Hotshots and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters for their foes in the championship round.
The Hotshots lead the series, 3-2, and they can forge a rematch of last season’s Philippine Cup Finals should they finish the Elasto Painters in Game Six tomorrow, Friday, April 26, at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
“Hopefully we could learn from these two series going into the Finals, because Rain or Shine and Magnolia are really competitive,” added the three-time Coach of the Year. “We hope we can sustain this momentum going into the Finals.”
Chris Ross led San Miguel with 24 points — spiked by five triples — on top of six steals, four assists, and three rebounds.
Alex Cabagnot supplied 22 points — including the free throws with 28 seconds left that settled the final score — and seven assists. June Mar Fajardo provided 17 points and 16 rebounds, as Arwind Santos had 12 and 11.
Romeo finished with 10 markers, two rebounds, and two rebounds in the victory that sent him to his first-ever Finals trip of his pro career.
Matthew Wright had 20 points and four dimes to lead the Fuel Masters, the top-seeded team of the conference. Justin Chua produced 18 points and 11 rebounds, while LA Revilla made 15 markers, nine rebounds, and six assists.
Calvin Abueva was held to just one point, though he hauled down 10 rebounds and also had three assists and a steal. He got thrown out with 42 seconds left to play after a flagrant foul penalty one as he already had a technical foul prior.
San Miguel 105 – Ross 24, Cabagnot 22, Fajardo 17, Santos 12, Romeo 10, Pessumal 8, Standhardinger 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Lassiter 3, Tubid 0, Nabong 0.
Phoenix 94 – Wright 20, Chua 18, Revilla 15, Jazul 9, Perkins 8, Intal 8, Kramer 6, Mallari 4, Marcelo 3, Mendoza 2, Abueva 1, Dennison 0.
Quarterscores: 22-15, 51-39, 85-70, 105-94.