San Miguel Beer drags rival TNT to a knockout duel
San Miguel Beer used its multifaceted offense to deal damage early and cruised to a 103-90 victory over TNT in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals on Friday at Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga, taking their Final Four showdown into a deciding Game 7.
Marcio Lassiter set the tone early, hitting three consecutive triples for a 14-4 run to open the game and erect an advantage that the Beermen never relinquished.
“It was just more of the defense collapsing on our bigs so I was getting the opportunity to take the shot,” Lassiter said. “I just came in prepared, got some shots up before the game. Just kept on trusting and believing. My teammates were believing in me and giving me passes and I just rode the hot hand.”
Indeed, San Miguel’s bigs drew enough attention to allow the team’s wings to gain open looks.
Mo Tautuaa came off the bench to lead the team in scoring with 24 points while six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo came up with a solid double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds to forge a knockout duel between two titanic franchises that are the flagships of the conglomerates that own them.
It was a quick turnaround from the Beermen, who were given up for dead after a nasty 110-90 Game 5 beating that saw TNT erect leads of as many as 28 points.
Bevy of stars
But facing a do-or-die match, the Beermen’s bevy of stars responded.
“I know these players. When our backs are against the wall, they really step up their game,” said coach Leo Austria shortly after the victory that kept alive the club’s title reclamation bid.
Lassiter tossed in 19 points, atoning for a measly five-point effort he had in Game 5. Terrence Romeo also provided scoring from the bench, finishing with 16 points and six assists while veteran Arwind Santos had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
And the Beermen’s defense held sway as well. Tropang Giga gunners Roger Pogoy and rookie Mikee Williams, who combined for 36 points on 14-of-28 shooting from the floor in Game 5, were limited to a combined 15 points on Friday, making just five of 24 shots between them.
And Austria was the least surprised that the Beermen got things done on both ends, saying games like this bring out the best in his Beermen. In danger of missing the All-Filipino Finals—the team’s frequent haunt in the last decade—his charges left nothing to chance, and used every bit of their know-how to prevail.
“Experience is No. 1 in this kind of situation,” the decorated mentor said. “We knew what to do. We know how to lose and win a game. And we know for sure that this is a do-or-die game. We had a good start and we’re able to sustain that with our energy.”
And the Beermen’s grizzled veterans intend to flaunt the same performance on Sunday.
“We have a lot of experience [going] into this Game 7. We want to bank on our experience. Also, we have to ride this momentum going into Game 7 and keep on believing. We knew that it was knockout game today; we needed to put all our effort into this one,” said Lassiter.
With Pogoy and Williams cuffed, the Tropang Giga tried to fight their way into Game 6 through Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes, who had 16 points apiece. Poy Erram and Troy Rosario had 11 and 10, respectively.
The Tropang Giga pulled within 10 behind Reyes and Rosario with 2:44 remaining, but were swiftly turned back by a triple by—you guessed it—the sweet-shooting Lassiter.
Lassiter and Tautuaa combined for 26 first-half points to lead the Beermen to a 53-38 lead at the break, before San Miguel used an 8-0 tear to put the game away early in the third.
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