By JONAS TERRADO
Game Today (Ynares Center, Antipolo City)
6:30 p.m. – Magnolia vs NLEX
(Series tied 2-2)
The defending champion San Miguel Beermen finished off Barangay Ginebra San Miguel last night with a performance fitting of their status and clinched a fourth consecutive PBA Philippine Cup Finals appearance with a 100-94 victory in front of a big crowd at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Back-to-back baskets by Alex Cabagnot in the homestretch turned out to be the cushion the Beermen needed to repel the Kings’ rally from an 11-point third quarter deficit and complete a 4-1 semifinal series win that moved them another step closer to completing the only four-peat in the PBA’s oldest and most prestigious tournament.
Cabagnot’s crucial points complemented a dominant showing by June Mar Fajardo, who finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Marcio Lassiter, perhaps the Beermen’s best performer in the series, had 23 points, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser provided the energy for 14 points and eight rebounds while Arwind Santos avoided a sixth foul with key defensive plays.
In beating a Ginebra team that blew a 12-point second quarter lead to march back to its familiar destination, San Miguel will have the luxury of a long rest while awaiting the winner of the other semifinal series between Magnolia and NLEX.
The two teams are tied at 2-2 going into tonight’s fifth game at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
“Alam namin na ang Ginebra will come out hard because their backs were against the wall. But our players refused to lose dahil alam nila ang importance ng game na ito,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria, whose streak of finals appearance in the season-opening conference began after his appointment in the 2014-15 season.
Cabagnot broke a 94-all tie with 3:20 to play, his missed layup ruled a goaltending. Five possessions later, the southpaw guard hit a tough medium-range shot, 1:55 remaining, for a 98-94 Beermen lead, leaving Ginebra and its supporters deflated.
Not even another appearance by the Kings icon Robert Jaworski was enough to uplift the spirits of a Ginebra team that was totally outplayed by a more-superior San Miguel squad.
SAN MIGUEL 100 – Fajardo 25, Lassiter 23, Ganuelas-Rosser 14, Cabagnot 12, Santos 11, Espinas 5, Ross 5, De Ocampo 4, Pessumal 1.
GINEBRA 94 – J. Aguilar 32, Mercado 14, Thompson 10, Devance 9, Ferrer 8, Tenorio 8, R. Aguilar 7, Cruz 4, Caguioa 2, Caperal 0.
Quarters: 25-34; 55-55; 83-76; 100-94.