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San Miguel rises to the occasion, takes pivotal Game 5

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The defending Phiippine Cup Champions, the San Miguel Beermen, may have finally solved the Rain or Shine puzzle.

After dismal outings in the first games of this semifinals series, the San Miguel Beermen, displaying great championship poise and uncanny trust in the system, are now just one win away from booking their second straight Philippine Cup Finals appearance as they bested the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters 103-94 Wednesday evening at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Contrary to the first four games of this series, the two teams went out with a slow pace that yielded a low-scoring affair early on. Halfway through the first quarter, the teams combined for a small six-point production. However, San Miguel shrugged off their slow start with the entry of Chris Ross, who hustled for three straight transition plays to give SMB a 13-10 lead late in the period. Despite missing all their five attempts from downtown, Beermen closed the opening quarter with a 15-5 run.

Rain or Shine controlled the boards during the first part of the second quarter, which propelled them to take the lead momentarily. Scoring also picked up during the quarter for both teams. Triples by Marcio Lassiter and Ronald Tubid, in addition to June Mar Fajardo’s easy inside bucckets helped the Beermen outscore the Painters 14-5, to take a 50-44 edge at the break.

Immediately, the Beermen went to Fajardo who went on to drain two quick baskets to help the team maintain the edge. Ryan Araña and Chris Ross also had a produtive third both offensively and defensively. The Beermen managed to bring the pace to their favor despite the minimal attempts from the free throw area. Meanwhile, the Painters managed to trim the lead to two, but Araña drained a floater to beat the third quarter buzzer.

In a blink of an eye, San Miguel ballooned their lead to a dozen within four minutes as Arwind Santos and Chris Ross knocked down three triples. The Beermen led by as much as 15. Rain or Shine managed to trim the lead down to nine but a rally-extinguishing three by Ronald Tubid and a offensive foul received by the “the Saint” on Lee halted any momentum gained by the Elasto Painters.

Winning head coach Leo Austria emphasized that this is a different San Miguel Beermen team compared to the first two games of this series. “We identified in what areas ang kelangan namin atakihin. It’s unlike our first two games na nagkanya-kanya kami,” Austria shared.

He then added that his players have now adjusted to their roles and have taken on a team-first mentality. “This is a team game. Hindi totoo na equal ang lahat ng player pero may role ang bawat player. Malaking bagay din na nasa amin si June Mar,” the champion coach closed.

Fajardo once again paced SMB with 27 points, 12 rebounds and a block. But it was Santos’ big shots during the final frame that pulled away the team from the Painters. The former Most Valuable Player finished with 12 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks in a stat-filling night.

After the game, Santos opened up that as the series progresses, the team gathers more confidence and unity. “Nagiging madali yung panalo dahil sa trust sa isa at defense yung key talaga,” Santos said. “Yung tiwala ng coaches andun at alam namin yung larong to importante kaya binigay talaga namin best namin.”

In addition, he said that he personally wants to finish the series in six games and does not yet look ahead. “Oo naman. Para sa amin gusto na namin tapusin. Yung Alaska di pa namin iniisip yan. Andyan pa rin yung respect namin sa Rain or Shine,” the “Spiderman” warned.

For the Painters, it was Quiñahan’s 20 who paced the team. Chan added 15, while Ponferada and Cruz chipped in 13 apiece.

As a team, the Beermen had more assists and points in the paint, 23-14 and 50-40 respectively. They also had less turnovers, 18-22.

Game 6 of this series will be played on Friday, January 15 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:
San Miguel Beer (103) – Fajardo 27, Cabagnot 14, Lassiter 12, Santos 12, Tubid 9, Ross 9, Espinas 9, Arana 8, Lutz 3, Reyes 0.
Rain or Shine (94) – Quinahan 20, Chan 15, Cruz 13, Ponferada 13, Belga 9, Norwood 8, Ahanmisi 5, Lee 7, Tiu 4, Teng 0, Trollano 0.
Quarterscores: 17-13, 50-45, 72-68, 103-94.

Videos courtesy of Sports5

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