by Jonas Terrado
Game Sunday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
6:30 p.m. – San Miguel vs Magnolia
(Series tied 1-1)
The defending champion San Miguel Beermen held another big lead Sunday night but this time avoided another colossal meltdown in the fourth quarter and defeated the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 92-77, and tie at 1-1 their PBA Philippine Cup Finals series at the Mall of Asia Arena.
San Miguel’s crack starting five, composed of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot, played almost beyond everyone’s expectations while getting help from reserves Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Brian Heruela to even the series while regaining a bit of momentum after a heartbreaking 105-103 loss in Friday’s series opener that saw the Beermen squander a 20-point third quarter lead.
Behind the seven players coach Leo Austria used with success, the Beermen held two 21-point leads in the third but almost put themselves in danger of suffering another collapse when the Hotshots scored 11 unanswered points at the start of the fourth, reducing the gap to eight, 75-67, on a rookie Robbie Herndon’s basket with 8:22 left.
Santos’ however played the fireman’s role by nailing a three-pointer on the ensuing play that ignited a 10-0 run. June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross made back-to-back baskets in the shaded lane before Lassiter connected on a triple for 85-67 with 4:49 to play, virtually ending the competitive phase of the match witnessed by a Palm Sunday crowd of 10,558.
“I have to give credit to the players dahil nakita ko sa kanila na ayaw nilang magpatalo,” said Austria. “They were disappointed and frustrated dun sa first game namin and nakanti yung pride ng mga players e at makikita mo na ayaw nilang mag give-in.”
San Miguel and Magnolia break their tie on Easter Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum as the series takes a week-long break in observance of the Lenten season.
Santos topscored for the Beermen with 24 points while adding eight rebounds. Lassiter scored 13 of his 16 points in the second quarter, Cabagnot hit 15 points, Fajardo was held to 12 points but added 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks and Ross dished out 10 assists despite five points.
The Beermen should also be pleased with the way their bench performed with Matt Ganuelas-Rosser posting six points, four rebounds and two steals and backup guard Brian Heruela making 10 points in 15 minutes.
Mark Barroca scored 18 points but Magnolia failed to score another repeat win over San Miguel. Paul Lee went 5-of-13 despite 13 points and Ian Sangalang failed to sustain his hot start and scored just 11 points after going for 29 in the opener.
Foul trouble also hurt the Hotshots all game with Jio Jalalon nursing four fouls in the second while Sangalang and Barroca later had four each.
Lassiter broke away from a scoreless first quarter and made 13 before Heruela ended the second quarter with a buzzer-beating jumper that put San Miguel in front 48-35 at halftime.
San Miguel built its first 21-point gap, 73-52, on Cabagnot’s two foul shots with 2:44 in the third.
SAN MIGUEL 92 – Santos 24, Lassiter 16, Cabagnot 15, Fajardo 12, Heruela 10, Ganuelas-Rosser 6, Ross 5, Mamaril 4, De Ocampo 0, Vigil 0.
MAGNOLIA 77 – Barroca 18, Lee 13, Sangalang 11, Dela Rosa 7, Ramos 7, Jalalon 6, Pascual 4, Reavis 4, Brondial 3, Herndon 2, Simon 2, Mendoza 0.
Quarters: 19-17; 48-35; 75-57; 92-77.