By JONAS TERRADO
Game Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Magnolia vs San Miguel
(San Miguel leads series 2-1)
The San Miguel Beermen wore down the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok even without the presence of June Mar Fajardo in the fourth quarter and pulled away for a 111-87 victory to gain a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A 16-3 run to open the payoff period was all the Beermen needed to create a big separation from a Hotshots team that once again played catch up on their way to their second straight victory and the hold on the driver seat for the first time in the championship series.
San Miguel led 75-68 after three quarters and began the fourth with the goal of having Fajardo getting a much needed breather. But Fajardo never got back into the contest after Marcio Lassiter accounted for seven in the decisive run that gave the Beermen a commanding 92-71 lead on two Brian Heruela charities with over six minutes remaining.
The outcome became a foregone conclusion from there.
“Nung nakita namin na di bumababa yung lamang so I have the luxury to rest our starters and to the point na nasustain nila so they’re deserving to be on the court,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria, praising the performances of reserves Gabby Espinas, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Brian Heruela who joined starters Arwind Santos and Lassiter.
Heruela was the highest point scorer among the reserves with 11, his confidence continuing to grow since a 10-point output in Game 2’s 92-77 victory the previous Sunday, Espinas had perhaps his best performance of the conference with nine points, two rebounds and three assists while Ganuelas-Rosser registered five points, six rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes.
Lassiter topscored with 24 points while adding six rebounds, two assists and five steals while Fajardo overcame struggles against the Magnolia frontline in the post before finally drawing fouls on his way to 21 points and 17 rebounds.
Ross scored eight of his 14 points in the first quarter, Santos contributed 14 points, six rebounds and five blocks and Alex Cabagnot dished out eight assists to make up for his five-point showing.
Mark Barroca was obviously the lone bright spot for the Hotshots with 22 points, four rebounds and three steals as Ian Sangalang suffered his worst performance in the series.
Sangalang was held to just six points on 2-of-10 shooting, his frustration growing after failing to score high-percentage shots. The southpaw center came in averaging 20.0 points in the first two games of the title series.
Paul Lee and PJ Simon had their moments but failed to show the same consistency down the stretch.
Lee scored 13 points in the first half but made two the rest of the way to finish with a 5-of-16 shooting, continuing his struggles from the field that saw him make just 7-of-26 attempts in the first two games.
He eventually left the game in the fourth quarter after jamming his finger during the fourth.
SAN MIGUEL 111 – Lassiter 24, Fajardo 21, Ross 14, Santos 14, Heruela 11, Espinas 9, Cabagnot 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 5, Pessumal 4, Vigil 2, Semerad 2, Mamaril 0, Lanete 0.
MAGNOLIA 87 – Barroca 22, Lee 15, Ramos 12, Simon 10, Jalalon 6, Sangalang 6, Gamalinda 6, Dela Rosa 6, Reavis 4, Herndon 0, Mendoza 0, Pascual 0, Brondial 0.
Quarters: 29-22; 50-49; 75-68; 111-87.