One more win and the San Miguel Beermen are back in the PBA finals. The Beermen are 3-0 in their best-of-seven series with the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, following a 96-95 victory in a thrilling shootout on Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beermen enjoyed a hot start early in the first quarter, building an 8-0 lead in the just the first two minutes. The Tropang Texters however easily caught up, finishing an 8-0 run of their own to catch up and force the deadlock. They remained within striking distance for the following minutes of play. They finally overtook San Miguel for their first taste of the lead with around four minutes left on the clock, following split free throws from Jay Washington. They proved to be the quicker draw in the ensuing shootout, exiting the quarter with a narrow 28-26 lead.
The shootout continued well into the second quarter, with the two sides exchanging basket after basket throughout the period, the lead changing hands numerous times. With around a minute left in the quarter, the score was tied at 49-49, but two breakaway threes care of Larry Fonacier and Jayson Castro gave the Tropang Texters the 55-49 lead at halftime. The Beermen shot an incredible 52.6% from the field in the first half, while the Tropang Texters shot 46.5% and went 45.8% from the three-point line.
Though Talk ‘N Text held on to the narrow lead for most of the early third quarter, San Miguel managed to steal back the lead, 66-65, with around four minutes left on the clock. Powered by a series of treys from Marcio Lassiter, the Beermen had their biggest lead since the opening minutes of the first quarter, 75-68, with three minutes left in the period. The Tropang Texters responded by bagging eight straight points to overtake once more just before the end of the period, 76-75.
Another shootout ensued in the early fourth quarter, but the Beermen had the hotter hand and led by as many as eight, 88-80, four minutes into the final period. The Tropang Texters however immediately recovered, keeping pace for the remainder of the quarter and trimming the lead down to a single digit, 92-91, entering the final two minutes. The lead was extended at the 1:24 mark, after Arwind Santos managed to pull up on the attack to sink a triple and give San Miguel a 95-91 lead. Ranidel de Ocampo however responded in kind on the other end of the court, sinking a triple from the wing to cut the lead to 95-94, with little over a minute left to play.
After recovering a loose ball set up by a swipe from teammate Jimmy Alapag, Castro was able to draw the foul from Lassiter, and later split two free throws to force a deadlock at 95-all, 50.3 ticks left on the clock. Later, with just 9.2 seconds left, Alex Cabagnot was fouled on the attack by TNT’s Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, and sank one of the two charities to give San Miguel the narrow 96-95 lead. The final possession saw De Ocampo go for what could have been the game winner, but he was covered by Santos just near the post, and could not sink the fadeaway jumper.
Santos led the Beermen with 23 points, 15 from the three-point line. De Ocampo led the Tropang Texters with 21 points. The series will resume on December 26, Friday evening. A victory will mean a spot in the finals for San Miguel.