San Miguel Beer completed a two-game quarterfinal sweep of NorthPort with a 100-95 victory Thursday, Sept. 30 to arrange a PBA Philippine Cup semifinal clash with TNT at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Six players scored in double figures as the Beermen controlled the contest amid repeated comeback attempts by the Batang Pier to march their way back to the semifinals of the league’s most prestigious competition a year after a run of five straight titles ended with a quarters exit.
The Beermen will head into the best-of-seven semis expecting a long battle with the Tropang Giga, who a day earlier put an end to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Philippine Cup reign with an 84-71 triumph.
Coach Leo Austria was glad to finally finish off NorthPort, which could have won Game 1 after Robert Bolick’s deep three only for SMB to steal the game on Alex Cabagnot’s last-second jumper.
“We all know that it will not be an easy game because this is a do-or-die situation for NorthPort,” said Austria. “I consider NorthPort as a strong team, a team to beat. Hindi lang sila mga bata e, they’re talented and ready to play. Yung pagkabaguhan nila sa court, di mo makikita, di mo matetrace. In fact, sila mga key player dito.
“In fact, I asked the team before the game that we have to take this seriously because their backs are against the wall and at the same time, we want to get to the semifinals right away and no need for us to get into a third game because third game is do-or-die. You can expect anything from your opponent,” he added.
CJ Perez once again paced SMB with 21 points, continuing his silent but effective play that earned him the nod as Cignal Play-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week. Mo Tautuaa had 17 and Marcio Lassiter added 15.
June Mar Fajardo registered 12 points and 12 rebounds while three players scored 11 each in Chris Ross, Arwind Santos and Terrence Romeo, who came back after missing the previous three games with an Achilles injury.
The Beermen also put the clamps on Batang Pier rising star Robert Bolick, who was held to 12 points on 6-of-18 shooting though his 14 assists were made while playing catch-up throughout the second half.
Greg Slaughter finished with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Batang Pier in a losing effort.
SMB took command in the latter part of the second quarter and went into halftime up 46-39 when Cabagnot found Fajardo for an open dunk in the final seconds.
NorthPort couldn’t overhaul the deficit in the last two periods as SMB led by a high of 13 points.
SAN MIGUEL 100 — Perez 21, Tautuaa 17, Lassiter 15, Fajardo 12, Romeo 11, Ross 11, Santos 11, Cabagnot 2, Pessumal 0.
NORTHPORT 95 — Slaughter 27, Malonzo 17, Onwubere 14, Bolick 12, Taha 9, Balanza 8, Rike 5, Doliguez 3, Elorde 0, Ferrer 0.
Quarters: 17-19, 46-39, 74-66, 100-95.