by Jonas Terrado
Games Sunday (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. — Rain or Shine vs NorthPort
6:45 p.m. — Phoenix Pulse vs Alaska
June Mar Fajardo scored the final five points as defending champion San Miguel Beer came back to beat TNT KaTropa, 80-78, to take Game 1 of their best-of-three PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The reigning five-time Most Valuable Player scored a pair of putbacks to put the Beermen in front before making one-of-two free throws to help the Beermen steal the series opener despite trailing by a high of 12 points.
San Miguel can go for a sweep and advance to the best-of-seven semifinals with a win on Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks while Terrence Romeo also scored 15 points in his first playoff meeting against his former team.
The Beermen stared at a possible loss after the KaTropa took a 78-75 lead on Troy Rosario’s triple with 2:17 left in the fourth.
But TNT failed to score another basket as Fajardo took matters into his own hands to save SMB from the jaws of defeat.
Fajardo’s putback pulled San Miguel within a point, 78-77, on the next possession before the Beermen forced a stop on the ensuing possession.
Marcio Lassiter missed a scoop layup but Fajardo was able to convert another putback to make it 79-78 Beermen, 1:04 remaining in the fourth.
Jayson Castro went for a runner but Fajardo rejected the shot, setting the tone for a wild windup.
Fajardo missed a basket, TNT’s Roger Pogoy lost the ball during a transition play before the former converted one of two free throws after being fouled with 2.2 seconds left for 80-78.
Pogoy tried to go for a win but his running three was off as the buzzer sounded.
Rosario finished with 23 points and nine rebounds but TNT is facing the prospect of being swept after its sixth consecutive loss to the Beermen in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Magnolia were playing at presstime in the start of their own best-of-three quarterfinal series.
San Miguel 80 – Lassiter 15, Fajardo 15, Romeo 15, Cabagnot 12, Santos 8, Ross 6, Standahrdinger 5, Rosser 2, Pessumal 2, Nabong 0.
TNT 78 – Rosario 23, Pogoy 16, Trollano 11, Williams 9, Taha 8, Castro 8, Reyes 2, A. Semerad 1, Carey 0, Heruela 0, D. Semerad 0, Washington 0.
Quarters: 13-22, 39-46, 60-65, 80-78.