The San Miguel Beermen secured another trip to the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup finals with a 90-82 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in Game 6 of the best-of-seven semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday.
The Beermen relied on Marcio Lassiter’s 22-point performance to set a battle with the Alaska Aces in the finals.
San Miguel Beer took the early lead after the first 12 minutes of play with big man June Mar Fajardo and guard Marcio Lassiter leading the charge resulting in a 19-16 advantage.
However, the Elasto Painters bounced back with 30 points on a 46 percent field goal performance in the second quarter overtaking the Beermen 46-37 before the halftime break.
In the third period, San Miguel Beer picked up their pace to regain the upper hand though reigning most valuable player Fajardo was taken out of the contest on a stretcher following a collision with Jireh Ibanes inside the shaded area.
Despite Fajardo’s absence, the Beermen were still able to reduce the deficit with forward Gabby Espinas leading their attacks, notching six straight points enabling his squad to grab the lead midway through the third canto.
San Miguel Beer’s onslaught continued in the final quarter stretching its lead to as much as 10 points, 84-74, behind Lassiter’s step-back jumper with less than five minutes left in the game.
Rain or Shine rallied their men for a counterattack but a technical foul was called against Jericho Cruz on a second motion with just a minute left in the game.
Lassiter ensured the Beermen another trip to the finals of the Philippine Cup with a breakaway layup in the dying seconds of the match.
Veteran forward Arwind Santos finished with 15 points and 19 rebounds while Espinas had nine markers for the Beermen.
Fajardo, despite sustaining injury, still had an impressive double-double performance of 14 points and 12 boards in his 25 minutes of play.
Beau Belga had 16 points while Gabe Norwood and Jewel Pon¬ferada notched 14 points each for the Elasto Painters.
“We’re very happy with the win but we’re sad because of what happened with June Mar. It is all part of the game,” Beermen head coach Leo Austria said during the post-match press conference.
Austria said that he’s glad with the performance of his team in the absence of a go-to player.
“I’m happy to see that the players stepped up. I think we saw that after what happened to June Mar,” he said.
In the upcoming finals battle against the Aces, Austria said that it would be anybody’s game.
“Against Alaska, I think it’s still anybody’s game. But with Alaska’s intensity, I think it will be a tough game. But we will give it everything we can,” he said.
San Miguel (90) – Lassiter 22, Santos 15, Fajardo 14, Espinas 9, Ross 8, Cabagnot 6, Tubid 6, Arana 4, De Ocampo 4, Lutz 2.
Rain or Shine (82) – Belga 16, Norwood 14, Ponferrada 14, Chan 11, Ibanes 10, Cruz 6, Ahanmisi 5, Quinahan 4, Trollano 2.
Quarterscores: 19-16, 18-30, 33-17, 20-19