With the shot clock winding down, San Miguel Beer forward Arwind Santos picked up an errant pass near half court, dribbled to the top of the key and knocked in a triple for a 21-point lead with less than four minutes remaining.
Even with reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo resting on the bench, the Beermen can’t do anything wrong in the final period as they used one of their trademark offensive outbursts for an emphatic 111-87 victory over Magnolia Hotshots on Sunday night and a 2-1 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup finals at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Marcio Lassiter tossed 24 points and Arwind Santos pumped in 14 points as they joined forces with reserves Brian Heruela, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Gabby Espinas in ripping the game wide open for the Beermen, who flaunted their incredible firepower anew.
“The key was matching their energy because of our second unit,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
“We opted to let them stay until the last two minutes of the game. If they continue to step up, we have a good chance of winning [the series].”
Heruela came off the bench to contribute 11 points with eight coming in the fourth quarter, while another key reserve, Gabby Espinas played his best game of the tournament, adding nine points, as the Beermen moved to within a couple of victories from a fourth All-Filipino crown.
“We have to give credit to our second group because they really stepped up,” said Fajardo, who already had 21 points after three periods. “I had a good breather. I just hope every game is like this. “
The Beermen turned a close game into a rout in the first six minutes of the final quarter with Heruela capping a 17-3 run with three free throws for a 92-71 advantage. Adding to the Hotshots’ misery was Santos’ trey to beat the shot clock, prompting celebrations with still 3:31 remaining in the game.
“The one-week break worked in our favor,” said Leo Austria. “We were able to recharge, refocus and recuperate especially with Marcio (Lassiter) and Chris Ross. The key here is we were able to match their energy. But this is a game of adjustments. We need two more wins.”
The Hotshots did get 15 points from Paul Lee, but the explosive guard injured his finger in the second half. Mark Barroca had 22 points, but Ian Sangalang, who opened the series with 29 points in a 105-103 win, struggled with just six points this time.
Despite San Miguel’s supposed dominance in the series, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero isn’t ready to concede just yet.
“We need to find ways to match up the second group of San Miguel,” he said. “We did a good job defending June Mar and Arwind but the problem is the other guys stepping up. It’s just hard to beat San Miguel with their firepower. But we will not stop until we find ways to stop them.”
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