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San Miguel silences Alaska in OT, extends series anew

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For the second straight game, the defending champs proved they are not going anywhere.

With the league’s MVP June Mar Fajardo playing for the first time this series, the San Miguel Beermen once again survived a grind-it-out Game 5 against the Alaska Aces in overtime, 86-73, to save their title-retention bid and extend the series to a sixth game, to be held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.

An entertaining first quarter started the game, as the two teams went back-and-forth in a quick offensive exchange. SMB built an early 15-10 cushion just before Vic Manuel once again came off the bench, scoring two straight hoops for the Aces. In a surprise move by SMB Coach Leo Austria, June Mar Fajardo got his first finals appearance of the series in the final minute of the first quarter. The MVP made his presence felt right away, scoring the quarter’s last basket via a turnaround jumper to give the Beermen a 23-20 edge.

Fajardo’s minutes were limited, but he managed to pile up four more points early in the second period. SMB led by as much eight in the first half at 34-26, during a mini-run that was capped by an Arwind Santos triple. However, an efficient Vic Manuel powered the Aces to a 10-4 close-out that knotted the game at 36 at the break.

A more defensive-minded third quarter slowed the game’s pace, with the two teams committing a handful of turnovers. SMB led by a minimal margin with a couple of transition layups. On the other end, Alaska stopped the cold streak from downtown, as they finally knocked in back-to-back threes courtesy of RJ Jazul to snap SMB’s zone defense.

SMB tried to pull away, with Lassiter and Ross making the first push in the final quarter. Alaska erased a seven point lead with another late-game run cemented by a three by Jazul off a sloppy sequence. With a minute left in regulation and the score tied at 64, Cabagnot and Hontiveros exchanged big time triples. On the next play, Cabagnot muffed a bad top-of-the-key heave, while Abueva missed a banker at the buzzer to signal extension.

In overtime, San Miguel went on an 11-0 rampage to pull away from a stunned Alaska crew. Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, and June Mar Fajardo were all instrumental during the stretch. A layup by Abueva and a triple by Casio came up way too late to pull off Alaska’s run, as Alex Cabagnot iced the game with free throws.

Despite committing four more turnovers (24-20), San Miguel forced the Aces to a dismal 6/33 (18%) shooting from downtown. However, the glaring statline was SMB’s plus 20 from the free throw area, as they converted 23/35 compared to Alaska’s 3 made out of five attempts.

Santos played his best game of the series with 22 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks, and four 3-pointers in a complete all-around game. The returning Fajardo had 13 points and 4 rebounds, including a productive defensive burst in overtime and a total of 16 minutes played.

After the game, Santos opened up about the relevance of Fajardo’s sudden return. “Basta tinandaan namin nung Game 4 kung paano kami nanalo,” “The Spiderman” said after the game. “Ngayon tumaas kumpiyansa namin kasi naglaro si June Mar. Nabuhayan yung bawat isa pero hindi pa kami dapat mag-relax dahil Game 6 pa.”

Manuel led all scorers with 25 markers and 18 rebounds. The “Muscle Man” was 11/18 from the field. Abueva finished with 12 in the loss.

Game 6 of the series will be played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, 7:00pm on Friday.

The Scores:
San Miguel Beer (86) – Santos 22, Fajardo 13, Cabagnot 12, Lassiter 11, Ross 8, Espinas 8, Lutz 6, De Ocampo 4, Reyes 1, Tubid 1, Heruela 0, Arana 0.
Alaska (73) – Manuel 25, Abueva 12, Banchero 10, Jazul 9, Thoss 4, Exciminiano 3, Hontiveros 3, Casio 3, Baguio 2, Menk 2, Baclao 0, Eman 0.
Quarterscores: 23-20, 36-36, 52-55, 67-67, 86-73.

GIFs courtesy of Sports5

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