San Miguel escapes, seizes semis opener
LIGHTNING just struck twice, and even the man who authored it couldn’t believe how it happened.
“This is unbelievable,” San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria said last night, minutes after his Beermen rallied from a 20-point deficit at the start of the fourth period to prevail, 109-105, and take a 1-0 lead over Rain or Shine in their Final Four series in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at Mall of Asia Arena.
“I really cannot explain [how] this [happened],” Austria went on as the victory marked the second straight time in a semifinal series opener against the Elasto Painters that his Beermen clawed out of a huge hole to gain the headstart in their series.
Last July 2, San Miguel also rallied from a 24-point deficit before pulling off a 101-95 win, eventually ruling the best-of-five series, 3-1, before scuttling Alaska in seven games in the Finals.
The Beermen drained six triples in the fourth period and finally zoomed to the lead, from 91-71 down, with 2:19 remaining after a June Mar Fajardo turnaround jumper made it 105-103.
Paul Lee, seeing action for the Elasto Painters for the first time this season, hit a broken play baseline jumper off Fajardo to forge the game’s last tie at 105, before Chris Ross hit the last of those six triples in the fourth to usher the Beermen ahead for good.
Game 2 of this series is slated tomorrow at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, and if there’s anything good in the Rain or Shine loss, it’s the fact that Lee didn’t show any signs of a long layoff because of a knee injury.
The 6-foot point guard finished with eight points in 17 minutes and could have forged a 108-all tie had his attempt at a third three-point conversion not rattled out.
Fajardo finished with 36 points, and had 11 in the fourth like Ronald Tubid, while Ross had seven points and a career-high seven steals that tied the seventh all-time most by a local in a game.
Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan scored 19 each for the Painters, who actually took leads of as large as 22 points earlier. But the two bangers were held to just a combined seven points in the final two periods.
Meanwhile, reversing all pre-series forecasts with an authoritative Game 1 win, GlobalPort tries to bury Alaska in a 2-0 hole today when they resume their half of the Final Four series at the Big Dome.
With momentum on their side, the Batang Pier and their star gunslinger Terrence Romeo, who had a career-high 41 points in Game 1, shoot for another win in the 7 p.m. contest.
SAN MIGUEL 109—Fajardo 36, Santos 19, Tubid 15, Cabagnot 9, Lutz 9, Espinas 7, Ross 7, Lassiter 5, Araña 2, De Ocampo 0, Heruela 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 105—Belga 19, Quiñahan 19, Cruz 16, Tiu 12, Almazan 8, Lee 8, Ponferada 8, Norwood 7, Ahanmisi 4, Teng 4, Chan 0, Ibanes 0.
Quarters: 21-31, 50-68, 71-91, 109-105