• Beermen gun for 36th finals appearance

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    Reigning champion San Miguel Beer will try to secure its 36th overall finals appearance in the league and its 10th in Philippine Cup when it battles Rain or Shine in Game 6 of the best-of-seven semifinals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum 7 p.m. tonight.

    The Beermen are enjoying a 3-2 advantage in the series.

    SMB bagged the Philippine Cup and the Governors Cup last year against the Alaska Aces to win their 21st overall championship since joining the league in 1975.

    Alaska returned to the finals this year after outlasting first timer GlobalPort 4-1 win in the other semifinals battle.

    “We haven’t achieved anything yet because we need to win one more game [to reach the finals],” said San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria. “I know coach Yeng’s capability, they will work very hard to force a do-or-die game. We just have to keep playing well defensively and offensively.”

    Leading San Miguel Beer’s onslaught is center June Mar Fajardo, who averaged 23.1 points, 14.3 and 1.8 blocks per game in the elimination round. He will be supported by Arwind Santos, Gabby Espinas, Jay-R Reyes, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Chris Lutz and Ronald Tubid.

    But Guiao and the Elasto Painters are in a go-for-broke mode going into Game 6.

    “We need to play better defense overall,” said the veteran coach Guiao. “Last two games, we’ve lost to SMB because we did not play solid defense. They beat us in our own game, that’s also one thing we need to address. We have to outrun them.”

    “We can sacrifice scoring a little bit more but we cannot sacrifice two or three more guys scoring.”

    Without the 6’7 Raymond Almazan, the Elasto Painters had a hard time defending against Fajardo and the frontline duo of Espinas and Santos. Almazan, who averaged 11.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 13 games, suffered a sprained ankle injury last week.

    In the absence of Almazan, stepping up for the Elaso Painters are Jewel Ponferada, Beau Belga and JR Quinahan.

    They will be backed up by Paul Lee, Jericho Cruz, Jeff Chan, Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, rookies Don Trollano and Maverick Ahanmisi.

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