San Miguel 96 – TNT 83
In last night’s top stories: the San Miguel Beermen won a basketball game, Monday traffic in Manila remained heavy, and the sun set in the west.
You see, it has been that kind of a trend for the Beermen over the past three years when it comes to the PBA Philippine Cup. On Monday, the defending two-time champions proved to be too much for TNT as they advanced to the championship of this conference for the third straight season.
TNT tried its best to give the Beermen a challenge even without their ace point guard Jayson Castro, but in the end, the collective strength of San Miguel’s all-star five overwhelmed the short-handed KaTropa.
Arwind Santos hit basket after basket from basically anywhere on the court, finishing with 22 points on an efficient 7-of-13 clip, including 4-of-8 from deep. On the defensive end, he altered shot after shot which prevented TNT from coming back, especially in the second half.
June Mar Fajardo, fresh off a 20-20 game 48 hours ago, imposed his will inside the paint anew, getting shot opportunities not just for himself but for the entire team. He had 22 points, 19 rebounds, and hit 10-of-14 from the stripe.
Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross were both terrific making plays for the squad, running San Miguel’s pick and roll game to perfection, while finding teammates with their exquisite passing abilities.
Ross himself was phenomenal with his defense and hustle, getting himself involved in every scramble for the ball, diving on the floor, and even swatting one attempt from behind. He left an indelible mark on one end of the floor and was able to feed off it on the other end, as he hit jumpers and three’s.
Ross tallied 18 points, six rebounds, 11 assists, a steal, and a block, while Cabagnot added 14 markers and seven dimes. San Miguel as a whole had 26 assists, nine more than TNT.
San Miguel pounced on the absence of Castro in the early going, jumping out of the gates to an 18-7 lead, although the KaTropa recovered from the early beating and went ahead in the first half.
The Beermen were only up by two, 41-39 during the intermission, but as past games have suggested, they’re always just a run away from taking control.
And they did the same thing again in the third quarter, exploding for 36 points to enter the fourth quarter already up big, 77-60.
TNT staged several attempts to pull closer, but every time they cut the deficit to a more manageable number, the Beermen would respond even stronger.
San Miguel’s relentless defense limited TNT to only 38 percent shooting overall, 6-of-25 from beyond the three-point lime. Turnovers also doomed the KaTropa in the fourth, as they kept rushing things against the Beermen defense. TNT surrendered a total of 25 turnover points to San Miguel.
Larry Fonacier led TNT with 14 points. Roger Pogoy added 13 markers, while Kelly Williams tallied a double-double of 11 points and 14 boards.
In the face of adversity, the Beermen leaned on the collective strength of their starting quintet, as has been the case for the past three years.
No challenge really seems too difficult to overcome for the squad as they have the best starting unit in the league by a wide margin. The five did play extensive minutes in the series clincher, although do not overlook the San Miguel bench, as the team’s reserves can also do significant damage in a high-level playoff affair.
As they near a third straight Philippine Cup crown, that synergy will once again be relied on. And if they can continue to get the best from their core group, the Beermen will be on their way to another title — nothing new, really, just like how the sun continues to set in the west.
Source: SLAM Philippines