by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Rain or Shine
(Ginebra leads series 2-1)
San Miguel Beer made sure it won’t give Alaska another chance at extending their best-of-five semifinal series last night after securing a 104-99 victory at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to advance to the PBA Commissioners Cup Finals for the second year in a row.
Import Renaldo Balkman and June Mar Fajardo once again piled up big numbers but it was the shots of Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot that mattered the most to propel the Beermen to a 3-1 series triumph and a 40th finals appearance for the league’s only active charter member.
The Beermen will take a crack at a second straight crown against the winner of the other semifinal showdown between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Rain or Shine.
Ginebra, which leads the series 2-1, tries to close out Rain or Shine in tonight’s fourth game, also at the Big Dome.
“Everybody stepped up and everyone was focused on this game,” said coach Leo Austria, who attempts to steer the Beermen to their seventh title since taking charge in 2015.
San Miguel recovered after its first crack at finishing off Alaska ended in a disappointing note, losing 125-104 last Friday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Fajardo had 26 points and 12 rebounds while Balkman added 23 points and 16 rebounds despite dealing with a pain on his right leg to complete their consistent plays in the series.
Ross scored 17 points on four threes as he capitalized on the open shots given to him by the Alaska defense while Cabagnot added 18 points, highlighted by a buzzer-beating jumper that gave San Miguel a 76-69 lead at the end of the third.
Diamon Simpson posted 24 points and 21 rebounds but made just 4-of-13 free throws that made it more difficult for Alaska to forge a tie in the second half.
Vic Manuel added 20 points but on 9-of-24 shots, ending a conference that saw him make 11 consecutive games of at least 20.
Alaska’s loss marks another disappointing playoff loss for coach Alex Compton against San Miguel, counting the three heartbreaking defeats in the finals between 2015 and 2016.
SAN MIGUEL 104 – Fajardo 26, Balkman 23, Cabagnot 18, Ross 17, Lassiter 8, Nabong 6, Santos 4, Standhardinger 2, Heruela 0.
ALASKA 99 – Simpson 24, Manuel 20, Enciso 19, Casio 15, Teng 6, Racal 4, Exciminiano 4, Magat 3, Thoss 2, Baclao 2, Cruz 0, Galliguez 0.
Quarters: 20-23; 43-44; 76-69; 104-99.