SMB KEEPS TITLE RETENTION BID ALIVE IN PBA PHILIPPINE CUP

MANILA – Jun Mar Fajardo-less San Miguel Beer kept its title retention bid alive after beating Alaska, 110-104, in overtime on Sunday night in Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup finals at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Veteran Cyrus Baguio knocked in a buzzer-beater three-point shot to send the game into overtime at 98-all and Vic Manuel opened the overtime with four straight to give the Aces 102-98 lead.

But Chris Ross sparked a decisive 12-0 run to give the Beermen an important win that stayed them in contention despite missing their bigman Fajardo in the finals.

Fajardo, who injured his left knee during the Beermen’s semifinals series against Rain or Shine after a rebound play against Painters swingman Jireh Ibañez, showed up but only to receive the Best Player of the Conference award.

As expected, the Aces took advantage of the absence of Fajardo, posting as much as 14 points in the third quarter.

Actually, Alaska was still leading the game at 93-82 when the Beermen unleashed a blistering 14-0 rally that gave the reigning champion a 96-93 lead with only 16.2 seconds to go in the regulation period.

Calvin Abueva ended Alaska’s scoring drought to cut down SMB’s lead at 96-95 but Ross rebounded the second missed foul shot of teammate Arwind Santos who drew the last foul of Abueva.

Ross was fouled and cashed in two free throws to give San Miguel a 98-95 lead with only 4.5 seconds but Baguio hit a three-pointer to force overtime.

”This is what we’re waiting for: to get breaks in the end game. Alaska have lots of turnovers. They panicked and my players accepted the challenge. They didn’t want to be swept by Alaska,” SMB head coach Leo Austria said in a post-game interview.

Australia said Fajardo wanted to play “but he’s the future of the PBA, San Miguel Beer and Gilas Pilipinas. I don’t want to aggravate his injury.”

Alaska head coach Alex Comption commended the Beermen, saying “it was a testament to their character.”

”They deserved the win. Our execution was poor. It’s us not being smart with basketball. It’s not easy to sweep everybody,” Compton added.

Alaska is still leading the series 3-1 and will attempt again on Wednesday to end their 15-year title drought in the All-Filipino conference of Asia’s first professional basketball league.

The scores:

SAN MIGUEL (110) — Lassiter 26, Espinas 21, Cabagnot 16, Ross 11, Santos 11, Tubid 8, De Ocampo 6, Lutz 4, Reyes 4, Heruela 3, Arana 0, Omolon 0, Semerad 0.

ALASKA (104) – Manuel 20, Abueva 14, Hontiveros 14, Casio 13, Banchero 12, Baguio 11, Thoss 9, Exciminiano 5, Jazul 4, Baclao 2, Dela Rosa 0, Menk 0.

Quarters: 20-28, 43-49, 69-77, 98-98, 110-104. Jelly f. Musico/PNA/northboundasia.com