By: Camille B. Naredo
MANILA, Philippines – Much has been said about San Miguel Beer’s explosive starting unit, but for at least one game in the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, it was their reserve players that soared to the spotlight.
Nothing was going in San Miguel’s way in the first half of Game 2 of the Finals against Ginebra. They trailed by 26 points, 65-39, in the second quarter, June Mar Fajardo was saddled with foul trouble, and the hot shooting that brought them to victory in the series opener was nowhere to be found.
The tide began to turn in the third quarter. Marcio Lassiter waxed hot, nailing triple after triple, the last one right in front of Ginebra guard Sol Mercado’s face. Lassiter’s celebration – heralded on social media as the “Salt Bae” move – earned him a technical, and he was tossed out of the game with the Beermen trailing by three, 85-82, at the end of the frame.
The Beermen could have folded following Lassiter’s ejection and Fajardo’s continued battle with foul trouble. Instead, they roared all the way back, thanks to Gabby Espinas and Ronald Tubid, who came off the bench and nearly led SMB to victory.
“Kailangan lang gampanan ‘yung role noong iba na nawala,” said Tubid after the game. “Ready lang kapag pinasok.”
“Ganoon talaga ang kailangan, kasi Finals ito. Hindi ka pwede mag-ayaw. Laban nang laban, kahit anong mangyari,” Espinas, for his part, said.
Tubid knocked down two three-pointers in the fourth quarter, and Espinas also drained a three-pointer of his own with 23 seconds left to put SMB on top, 109-108. They had a chance to seal the victory after a wild sequence that led to Tubid getting fouled, but the guard only managed to convert one of two free throws.
After Joe Devance sent the game to overtime, and Ginebra began to pull away, Tubid still refused to give up. The man who was once called “The Fearless” back when he played for the Gin Kings made back-to-back threes again to knot the game at 118.
Unfortunately for SMB, it marked the last time that they would threaten Ginebra in Game 2. They would go on to lose, 124-118, but took comfort in how they fought despite the massive deficit and the loss of key players.
“Sayang ‘yung effort, kasi talo,” admitted Espinas, who finished with 13 points. “Kung manalo, ako pa tumira ng three points. Pero para sa Ginebra talaga ‘yung game na ito.”
“Galing akong Ginebra, at least ‘yung never-say-die spirit, nadala ko sa San Miguel. We’re down by 26 points, pero nakabalik kami,” said Tubid, who had 16 points in a reserve role as well. “But we came up short.”
Before the start of the Finals, SMB point guard Chris Ross said that it was the “other guys” – the less heralded players on both squads – who may wind up deciding the championship series. Tubid and Espinas are determined to prove their teammate right and make an impact the moment they step on the floor.
“Paglabas nila, dapat talaga magandang energy ang ipakita ko,” said Espinas. “Kailangan lang mag-step up. ‘Yun lang ang mindset ko.”
Source: ABS-CBN Sports