The San Miguel Beermen are back in the finals of the Philippine Cup.
The league’s most storied franchise booked its Philippine Cup finals ticket following a 100-87 rout of old rivals the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters to complete the 4-0 semifinals sweep, Friday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The two squads traded baskets for most of the early first quarter, but the Beermen took control of the ballgame around the halfway point of the period to lead by as many as six, 15-9, with five minutes left on the clock, but a 6-0 run capped by an acrobatic layup by Kevin Alas saw the Tropang Texters force a 15-all deadlock with three minutes left in the quarter. The Beermen however continued to deny the Tropang Texters the means to overtake, fending off a late push helmed by Matt Ganuelas-Rosser to take a 24-20 lead at the end of the period.
Sparked by a five-point explosion from Ronald Tubid, the Beermen built their first double-digit lead with around five minutes left in the second quarter, 40-29, to pull away from a Tropang Texters squad that entered the period biting at their heels. Though the Tropang Texters managed to trim the lead to as little as six, 42-36, within the next few minutes, the Beermen managed to extend the lead back to 11 in time for the halftime break, 49-38.
Powered by a couple of big baskets by the ‘Spider-Man’ Arwind Santos, the Beermen led by as many as 14, 59-45, early in the third quarter. Though the Tropang Texters recovered in time to trim
the deficit to eight later in the period, the Beermen responded in kind and extended the lead anew. The late quarter flurry from the Beermen was capped by a buzzer-beating three by a resurgent Marcio Lassiter to build their biggest lead up to that point at 16, 73-57, after three quarters of play.
As with the previous three quarters, the early fourth quarter saw the Tropang Texters come within single digits, coming as close as eight points, but were immediately stopped with the Beermen rising to the occasion to extend the lead and deny Talk ‘N Text the much-needed comeback. The defensive-minded Beermen, who shot a commanding 57.7% from the field, found success almost everywhere on the court to lead by double digits for most of the quarter. The Tropang Texters’ spirits, however, proved hard to break, and the final two minutes were greeted by a fastbreak lay-up off the steal by Jimmy Alapag to trim the deficit to single digits, 79-88. A few free throws and a big basket from June Mar Fajardo extended the lead later to 11, 92-81, but another trey from Alapag to welcome the final minute of regulation trimmed the lead to eight, 84-92. A couple of free throw baskets from Fajardo and Chris Lutz again widened the gap to 11, 95-84, with around 50 ticks left on the clock. Despite a couple more surprise baskets from the Tropang Texters, the Beermen’s seamless free throw shooting only piled on the lead.
Fajardo had 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and two blocks in a masterful performance that earned him Player of the Game honors. Alapag led the Tropang Texters with 17 points, seven rebounds, and three steals.
The Beermen’s last All-Filipino championship came in 2001, after besting Barangay Ginebra in six games. The 2001 squad was coached by none other than current Talk ‘N Text head coach Jong Uichico. The Beermen’s last All-Filipino finals appearance was in 2011, where they were outlasted by Talk ‘N Text in six games.
San Miguel will be facing the winner of the Alaska-Rain or Shine series, which resumes action tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.