Old, mean Beermen back
June Mar Fajardo was gone at the height of a rally that brought Phoenix Pulse from 24 points down to within seven of San Miguel Beer in the closing minutes of their 2019 Philippine Cup semifinal playoffs opener Saturday.
But the absence of SMB’s key player in its hard-fought ouster of the TNT KaTropa in the quarterfinals hardly mattered this time.
After flashing inconsistent fire in the eliminations, the Beermen were finally showing total commitment to get a solid shot at an unprecedented fifth straight all-Filipino crown.
With Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot responding in the clutch, the Beermen finished off the Fuel Masters with an 11-6 blast from 89-82 to avenge their 96-93 loss in Panabo, Davao del Norte, last March 16.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo, gunning for a sixth straight MVP award for the season, finished with only nine points and nine rebounds after fouling out with less than four minutes left in the game. He had 32 points and 14 rebounds when SMB eliminated TNT in Game 3 of their quarterfinal duel, 96-86, after scoring SMB’s last five points in an 80-78 squeaker in Game 1 of the best-of-three series.
Phoenix, the top team in the elimination round with a 9-2 record, fought well in its first ever semifinal stint but San Miguel Beer, which dropped three of its first six games in the tournament, simply was too good when it was desperate to win as in its Game 3 quarterfinal duel with TNT.
The Beermen wiped out a 27-21 Phoenix margin at the end of the first quarter to forge ahead at 49-39 at halftime. The lead went up to 24 at 73-49 in the third period before the Beermen eased up the pressure to pave the way for a desperate Phoenix rally.
Rain or Shine earlier drew first blood in its own semifinal series with Magnolia by hacking out an 84-77 decision Friday. The Hotshots, the losing finalists last year, fought the Elasto Painters on even terms before losing steam in the last quarter.
Like the Beermen, the Hotshots needed three games to eliminate the Ginebra Gin Kings in their quarterfinal showdown but they were obviously fagged out after their 85-72 Game 3 victory Wednesday.
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