Beermen survive Gin Kings, extend run to 6 games
San Miguel Beer closed in on a Top Two finish in the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup eliminations as it survived Barangay Ginebra in a slow-scoring, defensive battle, grinding out a 72-70 decision before a crowd of over 10,000 at Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.
The Gin Kings neutralized June Mar Fajardo, holding the 6-foot-10 SMB behemoth to his lowest output (nine points) in the season.
But the Beermen had their own defensive gems, including Arwind Santos’ challenge on LA Tenorio’s game-tying attempt in the closing seconds.
The Beermen overcame the Kings’ fightback from 10 points down in the last two minutes and preserved a hot run from last December, thus firming up their front-running position with a 7-1 win-loss card.
The Kings, meanwhile, moved out of the Magic Eight with a fourth loss in seven starts.
“I knew from the start that it would be a tough game as our energy went down from the last game. It’s good that the guys still had some left in their tank,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.
“Ginebra, on the other hand, came off a long break and they were able to prepare for June Mar’s post-up game. They limited June Mar’s touches. Luckily, we had Alex Cabagnot and other players who provided energy,” Austria also said.
Cabagnot top scored with 16 points, Arwind Santos delivered double-double numbers with 12 rebounds and 10 points while Ronald Tubid came through with 12 markers, including six in the fourth, as the Beermen got back at their 2016 Governors Cup Final Four tormentors.
The Beermen made it two in a row in three days and stretched their run to six games in all since their lone defeat at the hands of Phoenix last Nov. 30.
“I think one more win baka safe na kami sa Top Two. I’m not sure, pero yun ang basa ko,” said Austria.
After their back-to-back wins over Blackwater and Ginebra, the Beermen maintained a game and a half lead over the second running Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (5-2).
Tubid and Santos took charge as the Beermen made a key run from 58-all count, opening a 72-62 spread entering the last two minutes of play.
Three-pointers by Tenorio and Joe Devance got the Kings back in the fight at 70-72 with time down to 51.9 seconds. Alas, the Kings’ rally fizzled out in the end with Tenorio muffing a potential game-tying shot in the waning seconds.
Fajardo was held to nine points by the Kings’ efficient double-teaming defense, but he also contributed 11 rebounds, three, blocks, two assists and two steals against four turnovers in 29:21 minutes of action.
Japeth Aguilar produced 17 points and 11 rebounds in 41:46 minutes of play for the Kings.
SAN MIGUEL 72 – Cabagnot 16, Tubid 12, Santos 10, Fajardo 9, Lassiter 7, Espinas 7, De Ocampo 5, Ross 4, Garcia 2, Heruela 0.
GINEBRA 70 – Aguilar 17, Mercado 11, Tenorio 8, Devance 7, Ferrer 7, Thompson 6, Cruz 6, Ellis 2, Mariano 2, Marcelo 2, Caguioa 2.
Quarters: 15-17, 32-31, 53-49, 72-70.
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