June Mar Fajardo made his presence felt after a foul-prone performance the last time and the San Miguel Beermen held Barangay Ginebra San Miguel scoreless in the final four minutes to win 99-88 last night for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series for the PBA Philippine Cup crown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo’s three-point play off a Joe Devance foul with 3:36 remaining in the fourth put the Beermen ahead for good at 90-88, before he and the rest of the Beermen forced Ginebra to miss its final seven shots to fashion out a grind out victory held in front of a midweek crowd of over 16,000.
The leading contender for the Best Player of the Conference had 17 points, 18 rebounds and three blocks in 38 minutes, a big bounce-back game after fouling out in a 10-point, seven-rebound showing in the 124-118 overtime loss last Sunday in Lucena City.
“I think that’s the biggest difference because we were able to give the ball to June Mar,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria, adding that it resulted in several open looks from the perimeter, particularly from Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter.
With its confidence appeared to be restored, San Miguel can make it 3-1 when the two teams resume their battle tomorrow night at the Big Dome.
Ross logged 40 minutes and topscored with 24 points, including a three-pointer in the final seconds that put the icing on the cake while upsetting Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Cone reportedly had some words with Ross as the two teams went to their respective locker rooms after the game after the San Miguel guard decided to hit one from long range with the outcome already decided.
Cone refrained from commenting on the incident, stressing instead Ginebra’s disappointing evening.
“Our A-minus game wasn’t enough,” Cone said. “We got to play better than an A-minus game. We got to get it to A-plus if we want to beat this team.”
He had plenty of reason to be frustrating after Ginebra raced to an early lead behind 12 points from LA Tenorio in the first half. Ginebra led 41-29 on Chris Ellis’ basket with 5:32 to play in the second, but allowed San Miguel to close the period trailing 49-44.
The Beermen, with Ross and Cabagnot combining for 16 points, took the driver seat at 69-64 late in the third, and entered the period ahead, 69-66.
Ginebra reclaimed the driver seat twice in the early part of the fourth with rookie Kevin Ferrer draining two triples – the first making it 77-75,9:06 left, and the second one for an 86-82 lead with 5:23 remaining.
SAN MIGUEL 99 – Ross 24, Cabagnot 20, Fajardo 17, Lassiter 16, Santos 9, Tubid 6, Reyes 3, Espinas 2, Heruela 2, Garcia 0.
GINEBRA 88 – Tenorio 16, Ferrer 15, Aguilar 12, Ellis 12, Caguioa 11, Thompson 8, Devance 6, Mercado 5, Marcelo 3, Helterbrand 0, Taha 0.
Quarters: 19-24; 44-49; 69-66; 99-88.