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San Miguel pulls off Beeracle Run to spoil Alaska’s sweep hopes



“Not tonight!”, say the defending champs.

In arguably the best game of the series, the seemingly-done San Miguel Beermen came alive in the final minutes of regulation, and eventually pulled off an impeccable 110-104, come-from-behind win to save their conference and extend the PBA Finals series on a thrilling Sunday at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.

An eventful first quarter in the free throw department ensued with a handful of fouls given out by both teams. As things got chippy early on, Ronald Tubid was assessed of a flagrant foul, which led to a 15-6 closeout by the Aces. Dondon Hontiveros was instrumental, with six points during the stretch, giving Alaska a 28-20 lead.

SMB managed to erase the early double-digit deficit installed by the Aces. Marcio Lassiter came off the bench and scored all of his 12 first half points in the second quarter, helping the Beermen tie things up at 36. However, JVee Casio inked seven straight points before the half expired, including four straight free throws and a Gabby Espinas technical. At the break, the Aces led by six.

Alaska paraded their most productive five on the floor to open the second half. In a blink of an eye, the Aces gathered another 10-point gap, with the Beermen missing from point-blank range. SMB tried to mount a comeback and chopped a 14-point lead down to six. Unfortunately, Alaska answered back with Sonny Thoss converting, and capped it with a swish from downtown by Chris Exciminiano to give the team a 77-69 lead.

Despite being down, a couple of times by more than ten, in the fourth, Marcio Lassiter pencilled in three key triples to make it a close affair late. The Beermen refused to give the game to the Aces, as they erased the lead with suffocating defense and pivotal baskets on their end.

With under two minutes to play, Gabby Espinas came up huge with an and-one play to make it a 93-92 affair, still in favor of Alaska. After a series of misses, Arwind Santos followed up his own to give SMB the lead they desperately coveted. Two more free throws extended San Miguel’s lead to three, but Cyrus Baguio stopped Alaska’s drought with a three-pointer at the buzzer of regulation to force overtime.

In extension, Alaska drew first blood courtesy of two buckets from Vic Manuel. San Miguel countered with the game-deciding 9-0 run, which included two layups by Chris Ross, a top-of-the-key triple by Alex Cabagnot, and a shot clock buzzer-beater by Yancy De Ocampo. The Aces had chances late, but failed to make attempts due to bad turnovers.

San Miguel only committed 11 turnovers compared to Alaska’s 22, leading to a 17-11 turnover points advantage for the Beermen. In addition, the victors had eight more points from the free throw area (34/46 from the foul stripe).

Marcio Lassiter led the Beermen with 26 points. Gabby Espinas had a grind-it-out game with 21 points and 14 rebounds despite fouling out late. Chris Ross stole the show in overtime, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and an assist shy of a triple double.

After the game, an emotional Ross commended the team’s heart down the stretch in order to pull off the comeback. “It’s pride. It’s just pride. We don’t want to go out on a sweep. We put all our cards out there and prayed for the best,” he said. “That’s the type of person I am for my teammates. I have complete trust for them and we just really hope for the best.”

Vic Manuel led the Aces with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Four other Aces tallied double figures. led by Calvin Abueva and Dondon Hontiveros who each scored 14.

As the teams go back to the drawing board, Alaska will try to close the series out for the second time while SMB hope to extend it anew. Game 5 is on Wednesday, January 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:
San Miguel Beer (110) – Lassiter 26, Espinas 21, Cabagnot 16, Ross 11, Santos 11, Tubid 8, De Ocampo 6, Reyes 4, Lutz 4, Heruela 3, Arana 0, Omolon 0, Semerad 0.
Alaska(104) – Manuel 20, Abueva 14, Hontiveros 14, Casio 13, Banchero 12, Baguio 11, Thoss 9, Exciminiano 5, Jazul 4, Baclao 2, Menk 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarterscores: 20-28, 43-49, 69-77, 98-98, 110-104.

Cover photo courtesy of PBA Images
GIFs courtesy of Sports5

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