by Jonas Terrado
Game Friday (Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Magnolia
(San Miguel leads series 3-1)
The San Miguel Beermen avoided what could have been another meltdown and survived the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok’s last-ditch stand to escape with an 84-80 victory and a commanding 3-1 lead that put them on the verge of capturing the PBA Philippine Cup crown for the fourth straight year.
San Miguel looked like it had closed the deal when Alex Cabagnot made two of three free throws off a
Rafi Reavis foul from the arc for an 82-75 lead with 1:58 lead, only to see Magnolia refuse to quit behind five consecutive points from Ian Sangalang.
Sangalang, a disappointment in Game 3, completed the string of points with a three-point play courtesy of a scoop shot from a June Mar Fajardo foul, 1:12 remaining, to put Magnolia behind 82-80, making San Miguel and its supporters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum feel a bit anxious.
A similar incident from Game 1 when San Miguel lost 105-103 after leading by 20 points in the third loomed large after Sangalang’s basket, but Magnolia failed to capitalize on two opportunities to either tie or take the lead in the dying seconds.
Aldrech Ramos missed a three-point attempt from the corner while Mark Barroca lost the ball as he was looking to receive a Ramos pass, setting up two Arwind Santos charities with 2.2 seconds that sealed the final count and a step closer to celebrating another championship.
Coach Leo Austria couldn’t hide his excitement over the prospect of capturing a sixth crown since taking over the once-troubled squad in 2014 but warned that Magnolia is far from finished.
“I’m sure they (Magnolia) will work really hard for the next game. But we’re smelling the championship and I’m sure my players will be different players come Friday’s game,” said Austria, whose team attempts to finish it off Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Cabagnot finally got his offense going in the series with 27 points in nearly 35 minutes and Marcio Lassiter had 18 points for the Beermen, who before tipoff joined Fajardo in celebrating his accomplishment of winning a record sixth Best Player of the Conference award.
Fajardo, who again dealt with the tough Magnolia defense in the paint, finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks even as Santos made 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Sangalang scored 22 points, an obvious improvement from his dismal six-point showing in Sunday’s 111-87 loss even as Rome Dela Rosa contributed 15 points and Barroca adding 14 points, nine rebounds, and three steals.
SAN MIGUEL 84 – Cabagnot 27, Lassiter 18, Fajardo 16, Santos 13, Ganuelas-Rosser 5, Ross 4, Espinas 1, Heruela 0, Pessumal 0.
MAGNOLIA 80 – Sangalang 22, Dela Rosa 15, Barroca 14, Lee 9, Reavis 6, Simon 5, Jalalon 4, Ramos 3, Pascual 2, Gamalinda 0.
Quarters: 14-20; 45-46; 69-64; 84-80.