San Miguel Beer banked on a strong second half to blast TNT KaTropa, 96-83, in the deciding Game 7 of the semifinals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. The victory seals the Beermen’s return to the finals for the third consecutive time.
The reigning Philippine Cup champion relied huge on the 6’10 three-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo who posted 14 of his 22 points in the second half in addition to 19 rebounds and four shot blocks.
Forward Arwind Santos added another 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field that include four triples plus 13 rebounds. Playmaker Chris Ross contributed 18 points, 11 assists and six rebounds to secure SMB’s 11th Philippine Cup finals appearance.
Overall, San Miguel Beer has a total of 37 final appearances since joining the league in 1975.
“I would like to congratulate TNT coach Nash (Racela). They forced us to play our best in this series,” said SMB coach Leo Austria during the postgame interview. “I knew from the start it will be tough for us. I commend the team.”
Combo guard Alex Cabagnot tallied 14 points and seven assists; Marcio Lassiter had 12 points while power forward Gabby Espinas contributed eight points also for the Beermen.
SMB is now looking forward to winning its seventh overall Philippine Cup title and 23rd overall crown.
The Beermen, on Cabagnot’s jumper established an 18-7 lead in the middle of the first period but the KaTropa trimmed down the deficit, 19-22, at the end of first quarter via a 12-4 run highlighted by Rosario’s two baskets.
The KaTropa showed resiliency in the second quarter bridging the gap, 39-41, at the halftime break. Ross led San Miguel Beer’s onslaught in the third quarter with an 11-point output that powered their 36-21 blast en route to a 77-60 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Fajardo and Santos’ insidious offensive allowed the Beermen to maintain a comfortable lead until the final seconds of the game.
Larry Fonacier led TNT with 14 points. The absence of playmaker Jayson Castro in Game 7, because of a hamstring injury he absorbed in Game 6, weakened TNT’s offense the entire match.
SAN MIGUEL 96 – Fajardo 22, Santos 22, Ross 18, Cabagnot 14, Lassiter 12, Espinas 8, Heruela 0, Garcia 0, Tubid 0, De Ocampo 0.
TNT 83 – Fonacier 14, Pogoy 13, Williams 11, Rosser 9, De Ocampo 9, Reyes 7, Rosales 6, Tautuaa 5, Rosario 5, Seigle 4, Tamsi 0.
Quarter scores: 22-19, 41-39, 77-60, 96-83