Jericho Cruz provides spark as SMB moves on verge of Finals spot

San Miguel Beer got solid contributions from its supporting cast to repel Meralco, 89-78, and move on cusp of a possible return trip to the PBA Finals in Game 5 of their best-of-seven semifinals in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup on Friday, Aug.12 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Photo from PBA

Jericho Cruz provided the spark in a huge third quarter flurry before Rodney Brondial gave a huge lift in the waning minutes to slam the door on any comeback hopes from the Bolts and move a win away from their first trip to the PBA Finals since the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup.

Cruz was at the forefront of the masterful third quarter show of SMB, scoring nine of his 17 points, almost outscoring the entire Bolts team which only mustered 12 points during that stretch.

CJ Perez also continued his offensive barrage with 25 points on top of nine rebounds and five assists while June Mar Fajardo posted another double-double display with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Chris Newsome, after struggling in Game 4, bounced back with 24 points while Allein Maliksi added 12 built on four triples. Missing in action, however, was Aaron Black who only finished with six points on a measly 2-of-11 shooting from the field.

It was a game that saw a fiery exchange of runs between the two teams with Meralco unloading the first rally with a 13-0 blast courtesy of three straight treys from Allein Maliksi as the Bolts took a 44-41 lead at the break.

The Beermen, though, had their own 13-0 run which completely turned the table in the third frame from a 50-46 deficit into a 59-50 lead. SMB then followed it up with another 8-2 finishing kick to end the third with an 11 point cushion, 67-56.

SMB padded the lead further early in the final frame to its largest at 71-56. That, however, was not enough to take the fight out of the Meralco as the Bolts pounced on the Beermen’s defensive lapses and poor shooting from the foul line to still threaten, 79-76, just inside the final two minutes.

Brondial, though, proved steady from the foul line before delivering the dagger jumper to hand the Beermen the huge win.