MANILA, Philippines?San Miguel Beer came back from 17 points down in the first half then played a steady game to nip Derby Ace, 74-70, for a 2-1 lead in their rugged best-of-seven Final Four series in the PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
Arwind Santos dropped a back-breaking triple with 65 seconds left and Dondon Hontiveros added a free throw for good measure as the Llamados self-destructed with one silly inbound and two lousy attempts down the stretch.
Defense was a premium in the badly officiated game as the Beermen regained the psychological edge and erased the bitter memories of bungling an 18-point first-half lead in a 95-94 Game 2 loss last Wednesday.
Although import Gabriel Freeman was hobbled by fouls, San Miguel?s defense helped muffle the Llamados? tops guns James Yap and import Tony Washam.
Washam was held to just 10 second half points and former MVP Yap to just seven in the same stretch as San Miguel overhauled a 33-45 halftime deficit to take the lead even before the end of the third period.
?I am not taking anything away from them, they (Derby Ace) have very good offensive players,? San Miguel coach Siot Tanquingcen told reporters. ?But give some credit to our defense. We have made a conscious effort to stop their scorers.
?In a defensive series such as this one, nothing is going to be given to you,? he continued. ?You have to go after it, basically.?
In the second game, LA Tenorio hit a huge three and four cushion free throws while Reynel Hugnatan threw in a crucial defensive nugget somewhere in between as Alaska held off Talk ?N Text, 90-86, in their own tie-breaking Game 3.
?LA was calm as a cucumber out there,? said Alaska coach Tim Cone, whose Aces seized a 2-1 lead in that half of the semifinal pairing. ?We kept battling and battling and hit some big shots down the stretch.?
The Beermen came out of the halftime break with renewed energy by making six unanswered points.
Derby Ace had taken a 45-28 lead with 1:20 left in the second period after a Don Allado basket, and the Llamados looked like they had complete command after closing out the half sitting on a 45-33 lead.
Although Freeman played just 29 minutes, San Miguel quickly got back in the game in the third period with Hontiveros finally lifting the Beermen ahead at 55-53 with a triple.
Trailing 70-73, Roger Yap doomed the Llamados with a bad inbound pass that was intercepted by Freeman and led to Hontiveros? win-sealing free throw.
Both teams got a dose of bum calls with James Yap, in one instance, being called for ?flopping? even with Hontiveros clearly hitting him twice in the face, once with the elbow and again with the shoulder.
SAN MIGUEL 74?Hontiveros 17, Freeman 14, Washington 12, Santos 8, Pena 6, Villanueva 5, Yeo 5, Cabagnot 5, Seigle 2, Racela 0, Ildefonso 0.
DERBY ACE 70?Washam 22, Yap J. 17, Allado 10, Timberlake 5, Artadi 5, Pingris 4, Canaleta 3, Maierhofer 2, Salvador 0, Yap R. 0.
Quarters: 14-24; 33-45; 57-58; 74-70
ALASKA 90?Diamon 31, Hugnatan 12, Fonacier 11, Tenorio 9, De Vance 7, Baguio 7, Dela Cruz 6, Thoss 5, Borboran 2.
TALK N? TEXT 86?De Ocampo 18, Alapag 17, Reyes 14, Carey 12, Dillinger 9, Williams 6, Cardona 6, Daniels 4, Castro 0.
Quarters: 17-24; 40-37; 61-65; 90-86